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
A polished film from Breillat on her usual themes of sexuality
Director Breillat is back and, as she did with "Romance", pushing the bounds of censorship in an intellectually challenging fashion. The story follows the sexual development of two sisters in their early teens. Their middle class family embody the usual social mores and protective attitudes. Moreover, the story makes us aware of the legal dilemma of under age sex, undertaken as a matter of conscious choice and with proper protection by the 15-year old (older) sister with a boyfriend only a few years her senior (ie the relationship would be legal in Netherlands but not in many countries, including France). These are two fairly "normal" sisters, although the younger one is excessively overweight and only fantasizes about getting a boyfriend. There is some possible interpretation that the 15-year old's psychological development would progress more soundly were she not (initially) fettered by taboos over her own virginity. In one scene, a TV in the background has a Breillat-type character being interviewed and giving her philosophy about the intrinsic nature of sex, how it is something common to us all and that can be understood by anyone, and that we are all alike inasmuch as no-one is perfect. The characters and scenes are painted brilliantly, the sibling rivalry coupled with intense sisterly bonding, the mother driving at night and, as many people will have, with a lack of sleep and so not as perfectly safely as normal. It is the realism and ordinariness of the situations that keep us on the edge of our seats. The dialogue has the realism that suggests youngsters may have suggested some of the lines, with their observations that have the power to startle us out of complacency. The use of actors so young in fairly explicit scenes will be a matter of great concern, but Breillat is serious about her work and convinces us that she is not pandering to sensationalism but raising valid questions about how we effectively handle the challenges presented by precocious adolescents. The film is more polished than Breillat's earlier work and has an unnerving denouement, well-delivered.
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