Sara Forestier's directorial debut is a meet cute that occasionally becomes as ugly and oppressive as the glum countenance of Jean-Pierre Leaud. There is a little of the flavour of Leos Carax about the way in which Forestier constantly needles the romantic impulses of her central pairing. Although I felt the film didn't do enough to bring all of its conflicts together effectively, it will still be of interest to see where Forestier goes next.
Lila (played by Forestier herself) is a young woman preparing for her baccalaureate exams, who has a gift for the poetic use of language, but is socially paralysed by a chronic stutter. Mo (Redouanne Harjane) is an older man who is struggling to mask the fact that he cannot read and write. They meet cute at a bus stop and soon Mo is helping Lila overcome her crippling self-consciousness when it comes to her speaking voice. However, Mo's own issues with language cannot be broached or solved so easily.
I admired the way in which Forestier would frequently choose to wrong-foot her audience by escalating a dramatic sequence in to the realm of horror or melodrama (the way Mo brutalises Lila's younger sister to keep her quiet, or the way in which Mo asserts his 'ownership' of Lila when made to feel awkward at a poetry meeting). However, there were many other elements in the film that felt a little to much like pretty and benign affectation (Mo's family tradition of macaroon making, Lila's father's (played drably by Jean-Pierre Leaud) OTT approach to the policing of hair lice. I think it is worth comparing Forestier's approach to that of the Safdie brothers' approach in their US indie work up to, and including, GOOD TIME (2017). There is a similar sense of intoxicating freedom and spontaneity about there work, but whereas the Safdie's link character development to the very form of their films, things feel far more programmatic and forced in M. An intriguing work, that promises much but doesn't quite live up to that promise.
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