MIDDLE-CLASS 17-year-old French student Isabelle (Marine Vacth) on vacation at her family’s beach house connives her defloration as the precursor to a clandestine career as a sex worker with Lea as her work name, servicing older men.
Writer/director Francois Ozon presents numerous questions about Isabelle that he leaves to his audience to answer. She doesn’t need the money. Despite indications that she has become proficient at the full panoply of heterosexual stimuli, Ozon is ambivalent about whether they satisfy her. She builds a structure of deceit and concealment from her family. Georges (Johan Leysen) befriends her and shows some concern for her situation. Lea combines family life, school, social life and work without major difficulties. Until the afternoon when George carks it during a sexual encounter.
Can Isabelle escape disclosure? No. But even during psychological counselling, Ozon doesn’t expose her motivations, giving the film an edge that remains uneven until she gets an SMS requesting an appointment in the same hotel where Georges died. The client is Georges’ wife, played by delectable Ozon regular Charlotte Rampling. The meeting is somewhat cathartic for Isabelle in an unexpected way.
Ultimately she will begin a relationship with a suitable boy, but even that doesn’t augur a reliable future.
The film is advertised as “Young and Beautiful”. “Lovely” strikes me as more correctly describing Vacth. Formerly a model, she’s decorative and may have a future in films.
At Palace Electric and Capitol 6