Á Ma Soeur! (18)

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Anaïs Reboux

The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/11/2001

Four out of five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Catherine Breillat’s last film was the equally controversial Romance, a film about a young woman’s search for sexual gratification that led her further and further into degradation and featured, among other taboos, erect penises, penetration and ejaculation scenes, the latter of which were subsequently cut by the BBFC for the video release.

Taking Romance, her earlier films 36 Fillette and Une Vrai Jeune Fille and now Á Ma Soeur into account, it’s safe to say that Breillat is Not A Happy Woman. As such, her films require a strong stomach and are not for everyone.

However, we can at least be thankful that the BBFC have decided to release Á Ma Soeur uncut, after taking legal advice on the issue of underage nudity.

The story of Á Ma Soeur (originally to carry the English title ‘Fat Girl’) is Breillat’s most accessible yet. Chubby, sullen 12 year-old Anais (Anais Reboux) and her beautiful 15 year-old older sister Elena (Roxane Mesquida, who looks a lot like Parker Posey) are on holiday in France with their inattentive parents (including Arsinée Khanjian, familiar from the films of Atom Egoyan).

Elena is bursting with hormones and is desperate to lose her virginity, so she’s easy prey for the young, good-looking Italian law student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) who chats them up in a bar.

The main part of the story then takes place over two nights, as Fernando pays two pre-arranged nocturnal visits to Elena and eventually coerces her into having sex with him, as Anais lies awake listening throughout the whole ordeal - Elena initially refuses and is persuaded to give Fernando first anal intercourse "because that doesn’t count", then oral sex before succumbing on the second night.

These powerful scenes are meant to be uncomfortable to watch, and the constant sight of Fernando’s erection adds considerably to the feeling that you ‘shouldn’t be watching’.

The scene works on several levels – you cringe for Elena as she falls for Fernando’s lines and you sympathise deeply with Anais, whose sense of anger and envy, mixed with disillusionment (she’d talked of wanting to be in love) is palpable.

Unfortunately, Breillat isn’t content to stop there, and includes a brutal and shocking ending to the film that will send you reeling out of the cinema.

Most likely you’ll feel you’ve been horribly manipulated, certainly you will leave the cinema sickened and wondering what the ending ‘means’, and it’s the nature of the ending that has caused controversy and led to several damning reviews.

It is, however, impossible not to admire the skill behind it – the penultimate sequence is a masterclass in uneasy suspense.

Regardless of the brutality of the ending, then, Á Ma Soeur deserves to be seen for what it has to say about sibling rivalry, the first sexual fumblings of adolescence (show this in schools and watch that teen pregnancy rate drop) and inattentive parenting.

Recommended, but be warned that it’s not an easy watch.

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Content updated: 20/07/2018 08:08

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