FilmReview

Other People’s Children: A very French marriage of realism and erotica

Rebecca Zlotowski’s heartfelt drama is powered by Virginie Efira’s performance

Other People's Children
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Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Cert: None
Genre: Drama
Starring: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Frederick Wiseman
Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins

At 46, Virginie Efira is hitting her stride. Stand back. Arriving on the heels of wildly impressive turns in Alice Winocour’s Paris Memories and Justine Triet’s Sybil – let’s draw a veil over Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, shall we? – Other People’s Children doubles as another absorbing showcase for the former Belgian TV anchor.

This is not a splashy movie. It is, rather, one that stays with the viewer.

Reportedly inspired by writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski’s relationship with Jacques Audiard, the film is imbued with personal and everyday details: school runs, Jewish customs and wine drinking.

Efira stars as Rachel, a forty-something secondary schoolteacher who falls for Ali (Roschdy Zem), a gentle car designer, and then falls for his five-year-old daughter, Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves).

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There’s no animosity. Leila’s mother, Alice (Chiara Mastroianni), is happy for Rachel to help out. Together, they form a child-caring quadrant. It’s not always an easy arrangement, but soon enough, Rachel has a child seat on her bicycle.

A cameo by the great documentarian Frederick Wiseman complicates matters further. Playing her gynaecologist, the 92-year-old Wiseman warns Rachel that her biological clock is ticking.

She hardly needs reminding. Her younger sister’s pregnancy adds to the sense that she’s a spare. “You’ll be her mum and dad forever,” she tells Ali. “I’ll always be an extra.”

Nobody can marry realism and erotica quite like Zlotowski (Grand Central, Belle Épine), and Efira and Zem are expertly cast for the filmmaker’s very French marriage of sex and humdrum duty.

George Lechaptois’s sunny cinematography and ROB’s lively score add bright notes to a film that is consistently light on its feet, despite its potentially weighty subject matter.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic