A Ma Soeur! is a provocative and shocking drama about sibling rivalry, family discord and relationships. Elena is 15, beautiful and flirtatious. Her less confident sister, Anais, is 12, and constantly eats. On holiday, Elena meets a young Italian student who is determined to seduce her. Anais is forced to watch in silence, conspiring with the lovers, but harbouring jealousy and similar desires. Their actions, however, have unforeseen tragic consequences for the whole family.Written by
Directed by the 'controversial' Catherine Breillat (she showed a hard-on in her last movie, 'Romance'), the story revolves around a family on holiday with two adolescent sisters, the chubby 13 year old Anaïs (played by Anaïs Reboux) and the rather more svelte Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who is two years her senior, although rather less mature. Both girls are still virgins, although Elena is clearly aware of the power of her beauty over the opposite sex. Effortlessly she pulls Italian law student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo, with whom she begins an intense relationship. Fernando talks of love, but is obviously keen for sex. Poor Anaïs is unfortunately sharing a room with the pair as they fumble towards a deflowering. Indeed, this is one of the most beguiling scenes in the movie; you feel awkward bearing witness to what is going on - the constant demands of Fernando for 'a demonstration of love', which after refusals brings forth the sorts of coercing phrases regarding anal sex that so many girls must dread to hear.
The animosity is often intense between the sisters, Anaïs' bitterness towards her sister combined with a resigned maturity that only rejection and frustration can breed. But at the same time there are wonderful scenes of the two sharing sisterly moments; albeit with bile never far away. The point is well made, the bond is there, no matter how much of a bitch Elena can be. Anaïs is such a lost, sad character; the melancholic beauty of one scene on the beach where she is singing to herself whilst Elena and Fernando 'make out' is incredible. Also well portrayed is the relationship with the parents. Mother is very much like Elena; Father is a workaholic who hates holidays and returns home before the others. Although the parents are mostly secondary in the story, you sense that they tend to reinforce Anaïs insecurities and knock her down further. This is exemplified in the scene the morning after the first Elena & Fernando night together. Anaïs is clearly really low, crying and choked. Her parents offer zero warmth, the only solace coming from a still caustic Elena shoving bread into her mouth to comfort her.
The story climaxes as the sisters and their mother return home from their holiday, after a gloriously comic scene where Fernando's mother (Laura Betti) visits to reclaim a precious ring that he had given to Elena as an engagement ring. The journey toward home is fantastically shot; the claustrophobia of motorway driving - especially since the mother doesn't like driving, and is pretty p****d at Elena's antics and Anaïs' miserableness - metaphoring the unease between the three, even more so as night wears on and mother becomes more wary of the huge dangerous lorries that she overtakes incautiously on the freeway. If I was an absolute ponce (or totally fearless), I would say these trucks are a metaphor for the male predatory sexuality against the tiny feminine car (which still manages to nimbly overtake at will most of the time). But I'm not (?), so I won't. Anyway, the ending comes as a huge shock. So I'm not going to tell you it. But safe to say you don't leave the cinema with a laugh and a giggle.
Overall, I was actually surprised by how deep this story was; there was only one gratuitous erection, and even that was covered by a condom. A brave attempt to analyse adolescent female sexuality, often leaving an unplesant taste in the mouth, but well worth a go if you're in the mood.
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