August 2, 2021

a crazy maternal passion seen by Julie Delpy


The new film written, directed and interpreted by the always unexpected Julie Delpy ends with a question that is all the more dizzying as it seems to have arisen at the end of a course of ruthless logic. My Zoe feeds on a unanimously shared terror and an ontologically scandalous experience, that of the loss of a child. The choice of a staging favoring the wide shot, avoiding any easy Pavlovian effect (no music comes to work the emotion of the spectator), sometimes inventing particular, almost artificial devices (the glass cage housing, during a sequence, the confrontation between the heroine and her ex-husband) are put at the service of a psychological and human journey whose inevitability skilfully hides the extreme dimension.

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Everything seems to go without saying in a story where nothing should be taken for granted. The change of register and category, felt at several times, of a film starting from a realistic chronicle to end up in science fiction does not thus appear as a particular afféterie, but as the deployment of an implacable and poignant suspense. . A fairly simple suspense: will the heroine succeed, despite adversity and against all reason, at her goal? In the refusal of the mourning manifested by the main character, in this denial in the face of the unthinkable, is there an element of madness or simply the legitimate desire to go beyond human limits?

Scientific speculation

Isabelle (Julie Delpy), geneticist and divorced, has a deeply conflicting relationship with James, her ex-husband (played by Richard Armitage), visibly consumed by resentment and the need to dominate. The disagreement often revolves around questions concerning the custody of their daughter Zoe, to which Isabelle is closely linked. Following an accident, the little girl falls into a coma and then dies. The mother will, therefore, embark on an unthinkable Promethean challenge, helped in this by a controversial biologist (Daniel Brühl), to find the lost love.

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Julie Delpy bases her screenplay on plausible scientific speculation to put it at the service of a postulate whose objectively delusional nature we manage to forget. Isabelle’s determination, between refusal of reality and excessive pride, illustrates with rare precision a very particular feeling, that of maternal passion conceived as an ambivalent and violent feeling, detached from simple emotion (the love of a mother for his daughter) to reach an unprecedented intensity, up to, perhaps, pathology. By fetishizing in particular the body of her child (she wants, she says, to find the smell of her hair), isn’t Isabelle expressing, precisely, this insane relationship?

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