My Zoe: Julie Delpy the movie star just about carries the silliest scenes

The preposterous plotline is offset by great acting and a meringue-soft sci-fi setting

Film Title: My Zoe

Director: Julie Delpy

Starring: Julie Delpy, Gemma Arterton, Daniel Brühl, Richard Armitage, Lindsay Duncan

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 100 min

Wed, Oct 7, 2020, 05:00

   

There’s some magical power only French film-makers seem to possess that can bestow a verité anti-gloss on the most preposterous, soapy plotlines. At the height of this alchemy, there are wonderful films like Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living – a magical heart transplant movie – and Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, in which the convict hero sees dead people. 

Julie Delpy’s My Zoe isn’t nearly so enchanting, but it does gussy up a ludicrous narrative with proper acting and meringue-soft science fiction. 

Doting mother and geneticist Isabelle (Julie Delpy) is raising her only daughter, Zoe, with her toxic, controlling ex-husband (Richard Armitage). One tragedy later and Isabelle is on her way to Russia to see a renegade fertility physician played by Delpy regular Daniel Brühl. Ridiculous, unethical developments ensue, all of which are neatly sewn up faster than you can say, “but what about nature versus nurture?”

My Zoe (official trailer)

Writer, director and star Delpy is a better film-maker than My Zoe might indicate to the unschooled viewer. She has, to date, skipped effortlessly between period horror (The Countess) and rambunctious, very French comedies (2 Days in Paris; 2 Days in New York).

There are occasional moments of truthful dialogue and emotional weight in My Zoe that serve to remind you the film comes from the co-writer of the Before Sunrise sequence. Lesser actors than Delpy and Gemma Arterton might well have stumbled on dialogue that seeks to distill motherhood into the act of smelling a child’s hair. But they don’t.

Delpy, for all her indie chops, is a movie star. And her luminosity just about carries the silliest scenes. The rest isn’t all bad news. The near future is niftily evoked in a few background details. The broken marriage is written precisely and painfully. And the sense of parental panic, as in real life, dogs until the final credits roll.  

On digital platforms from October 6