Gérard and Hélène are set to begin a new life together in Argentina. At the last minute, Gérard decides to separate and leaves his partner stranded at the airport. Unwilling to turn to her sister and emotionally traumatised, the abandoned Hélène makes the airport her home. She makes money by working as a prostitute and strikes up a friendship with a café worker Marco. It is a precarious lifestyle but she has mastered her dependency on men - or has she?
Astonishing that this powerful film should pass almost unnoticed when it was released in the summer of 2000. Fortunately, it has enjoyed a second lease of life following Dominique Blanc's best actress award at the 2001 César's ceremony, shortly before director Roch Stéphanik was awarded the prestigious Cyril Collard.prize.
The film takes a familiar theme, the break down of a relationship between a strong male partner and a dependent female partner, and traces the resulting trauma experienced by the latter in coming to terms with her abandonment. All this takes place within the oppressive mausoleum that is Orly airport in Paris, providing a suitably surreal, yet disturbing familiar, backdrop to one woman's psychological collapse and subsequent reconstruction.
There are two things which mark this film most. First, there is of course Dominique Blanc's very creditable performance - and it is not too difficult to see why she was awarded a César. The actress shows a remarkable range in what is a very demanding role, appearing alternately vulnerable and dangerously seductive, the child and the tiger, but always with the utmost conviction. Secondly, the cinematography is also noteworthy, particularly the scenes where Hélene finds herself alone at the airport, which look as if they have been shot in another world, so haunting and menacing is the spacious neon-lit setting.
The film's length and drawn out ending count against it a little. Towards the end, you wonder if the director at the heart to finish what must have been an intensely personal work. By contrast, Hélene's sudden transformation at the end of the film appears contrived and unconvincing, although this is certainly the way the film should have ended. However, these quibbles aside, this is a riveting and sombre drama, with a smattering of dry comedy and irony, well worth seeing.
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