An anguished foster child takes to mischief and lies as his foster parents do their best to love and care for him. But it might be too little, too late in this emotionally devastating portrayal of the orphaned child.
Suzanne is sixteen and is having sex with many boys, just for fun, but did not manage to really love one of them. Her family does not understand her. The father does not like her behaviour. When he leaves home, the mother becomes a little bit neurotic. And Suzanne's brother Robert, begins to beat her as a punishment.Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #337. See more »
In the sequence with the American, Suzanne's outfit changes from a one-shoulder black dress with white stripes trimming just the top of the bodice, to a one-shoulder black&white striped top with a black skirt, and back again. See more »
Sometimes I feel like killing myself, you know? Sometimes I'm sick of living.
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"And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind and you know that you can trust her for she's touched your perfect body with her mind" – Suzanne, Leonard Cohen
In Maurice Pialat's À Nos Amours,casual sex without emotional involvement is a defense mechanism that 16-year-old Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire) uses to mask her anger at the family that does not, or cannot understand her. Winner of France's César Award for Best Film in 1984, À Nos Amours is not a film that will leave you with a warm glow or an optimistic feeling about the human condition, but you will not easily forget Bonnaire's striking performance in her first starring role. The younger child in a dysfunctional Polish family living in Paris, Suzanne must confront what is most common to the process of growing up - finding who you are and where you belong in the world.
Unlike most adolescents, however, she must also deal with a father (Maurice Pialat), who sends her mixed messages about his love, a bullying brother Robert (Dominique Besnehard), and an emotionally unstable mother (Evelyne Ker), all who resent her sexual independence and, what they see as her lack of self control. Suzanne's best instincts are to love and be loved but she is constantly thwarted in realizing those instincts by her insatiable need for sex. Pialat does not stand in judgment of her or anyone else's behavior, taking her own words that "I'm only happy when I'm with a guy" as just the way it is for her.
Though she takes great pleasure in sex and remains a sympathetic character throughout the film, she recognizes that "Life's no fun when you don't love anyone" and talks about suicide. As the film begins, Suzanne is rehearsing a play in a summer camp about a woman who deserts a promising relationship, convinced that love is an illusion. She will demonstrate the play's narrative arc in her own life throughout the remainder of the film. Though the film tells us nothing about their back story, Suzanne's romance with the handsome Luc (Cyr Boitard) seems to have hit a wall, though he tells her that he is still in love with her. Keeping her distance, Suzanne rejects his sexual overtures without offering a reason.
Attending a party in the port where she dresses in a manner that will be instantly appealing to the sailors who congregate at the bar, Suzanne loses her virginity with an American (Tom Stevens) who, when it is over, says "Thanks a lot," to which she replies, "You're welcome. It's free." Feeling uneasy about her first experience, she confides to her friend Martine (Maité Maillé) that she doesn't know why she did it but doesn't regret it. Transcending her experiences with the young men who are more than willing to accommodate her desires, her relationship with her father is the most meaningful one in the film, though it is inconsistent and ambiguous.
Telling his daughter that he is leaving the family, his intimate conversation with Suzanne is honest and tender, yet, while her father finds a way out, Suzanne is offered none and the film unfortunately never suggests any. After her father leaves, relationships with her brother Robert and mother turn to histrionic outbursts and physical assaults that look all too real and feel jarringly incongruous with the good feelings the film has built to this point. Now under the weight of being left alone, Suzanne's mother, who previously had been encouraging her daughter's independence, now turns against her and suffers what is casually referred to as a "nervous breakdown."
In one of the film's most referenced scenes, a family dinner party in which Suzanne seems to be content with her husband of six months, Jean-Pierre (Cyril Collard),is interrupted by her father who walks in unannounced and proceeds to antagonize everyone in the room including Robert and his friends. The scene has the feeling of being improvised yet is one of the most convincing, if unpleasant, scenes in a film that defies cinematic conventions and acceptable social norms. Though at times A Nos Amours is not an easy film to like, its mesmerizing power touches us and remains in the hidden places where our fears live.
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