out of Five
Running time: 94
Opens London Film Festival: 3rd November
Intense, powerful and unsettling drama with intriguing central performances by the two leads.
Riviera is the sort of film that, for some reason, the French seem to do so much better than anyone else. Directed by Anne Villacéque, it’s an intense, powerful and unsettling drama about a distinctly strange mother-daughter relationship.
The film is quelle surprise set on the French Riviera. Miou-Miou plays Antoinette, a middle-aged single mother who works as a chambermaid in an upmarket Côte d'Azur hotel, whilst her drop-dead gorgeous daughter Stella (Vahina Giocante, from last year’s Lila Says) works nights as a go-go dancer in a local club.
The two women hardly ever see each other, thanks to their incompatible working hours, but Antoinette takes an unusual (and possibly
vicarious) interest in her daughter’s love-life, to the point of sending a wealthy hotel guest (Elie Semoun) over to the club, in the hopes that Stella’s ample charms will do the rest.
Bored with the local boys, Stella accepts the offer of a date, but things don’t quite go according to plan.
The opening scenes of Riviera are amusingly reminiscent of the recent Channel 4 series Sugar Rush. In addition, the film has a similarly jet-black sense of humour, particularly in the first half of the film.
Riviera is an impressively directed film. There are long stretches without dialogue that occasionally recall Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In addition, Villacéque is adept at suddenly changing the mood of a scene for shock effect.
The performances are excellent – there’s very little dialogue and hardly any back story, so we’re constantly intrigued by the characters and their behaviour, particularly as their faces give nothing away.
In short, Riviera is an enjoyably weird, vaguely disturbing drama with stunning photography, a superb soundtrack and a pair of splendidly enigmatic performances from its two leads. Worth seeing.