AKA: For my sister, Story of a Whale.
Director: Catherine Breillat.
Starring: Anais Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero De Rienzo, Arsinee Khanjian. France. 1h 35m.
Catherine Breillat’s dark drama inspects the lives of two young sisters at a pivotal moment in their development into womanhood with all the graphic insights that Brielliat is akin to producing for her fans and mostly for her critics.
Anais (Reboux) and Elena (Mesquaida) are two sisters who are poles apart, the film opens with them walking into town from their families holiday home, discussing losing their virginity and sex, which is quite advanced for such young girls but Elena is firm in her beliefs that it should be between two people who really love each other and her huskier sister; Anais, is on the thought train of losing one’s virginity should be just done to get it out of the way, she’s convinced that any stranger will do then she’ll just get on with her life.
Be careful what you wish for.
Arriving in town the two sisters meet Fernando (De Rienzo) a charming Italian law student who falls heavily for the promiscuous Elena, they embrace while Anais orders a banana split and watches the spectacle in front of her. They take him home to meet the parents, sadly the girls father has to leave but the family continue their holiday mostly to the mothers utter frustration. Fernando sneaks in to visit Elena the next night, this awkward scene sees the young stud coerce the bold but inexperienced girl into her first sexual experience while her sister secretly looks on from the other side of their shared bedroom. The filming of this difficult scene was such an engrossing ordeal that Breillat made another movie just about this, Sex Is Comedy (2002) details the troubles she went through trying to film a sex scene between two actors who hated each other. But by the morning Fernando has managed to score twice.
Tensions are raised the following day , the animosity and love between the two girls grows, while the romance sizzles. It’s clear that Breillat is happy to paint all men as pigs and young women as objects, but the strange dichotomy between the sisters illuminates Elena is totally oblivious to her status as an easily discarded sex toy and believes she’s truly in love especially after she’s presented with a ring, but her chunky sister watches on with both love and disgust but is a realistic voice often found in the background, a person totally ignored by most of her family and all down to her weight.
This coming of age drama is a bit like a raunchy bleak diary of Adrian Mole, the characters are bold and vivid but they seem much older than their appeared age, which makes them somewhat sinister, but that turns out to be a bonus when this dream eventually turns into a nightmare. Happiness in Breillat’s movies is always fleeting, fake or very flat. You need to have a pretty morbid curiosity to really “enjoy” this movie, there’s so much which is really hard to watch, but when teens aren’t being anally raped or women shot in the temple, Brillant does take a sympathetic eye for the beautiful rural surroundings of the holiday home, but it doesn’t act as eyebleach to wash away the stark raw horrors.
R – Romance X (1999), Houndog (2007), Sex is a Comedy (2002)
L – French Extreme, Taboo, Sisters of the Silver Screen
5s – Catherine Breillat.