Soit Je meurs, soit Je Vais Mieux

Double Trouble

July 22, 2008By Paris UpdateFilm

Is it a ploy to draw in the large teenage market during the summer holidays? All the new French films appearing in Paris this week seem to deal with the problems of adolescence: Nos 18 Ans is about high-school pupils preparing to take their end-of-school exams, the bac; Un Monde à Nous revolves around a father and son; Les Grands s’Allongent par Terre is about a daughter and the father she has never met; and, probably the most substantial of the week’s offerings, Soit Je meurs, soit Je Vais Mieux centers on a teenaged boy who moves with his mother, recently abandoned by her husband, to the outskirts of Paris.

Soit Je Meurs is most effective in the naturalistic and perceptive portrayal of daily family and school life. Many scenes are memorable for their inventive and often witty portrayal of isolation: Martial (François Civil) dancing with a skeleton; his ineffectual, needy mother (Florence Thomassin) trying to extract a kiss from her unresponsive son; the excruciating apartment-warming party at which a member of Martial’s class is the sole guest (and only because Martial has paid him to attend); and the evening spent by Martial with his father and his father’s new girlfriend.

Alongside this realism, director Laurence Ferreira-Barbosa has chosen to depict an almost fantastical counterpart represented by the private world of two identical twin sisters (played by Marine and Carine Barbosa), to whom Martial becomes increasingly drawn. The twins, who at first communicate only with each other, lead Martial into breaking and entering luxurious homes, where they enact various rituals that seem to come straight from the theater of Jean Genet. In fact, Ferreira-Barbosa has mentioned that she was inspired by a documentary on two real-life twins who embarked on a life of crime.

Although these scenes have a certain hypnotic quality to them, enhanced by the uncanniness of the twins’ identical expressions and features, the random succession of events makes the pace sag at times. With the movie running at close to two hours, some cuts seem in order, as in so many of today’s films.

This is much more than a run-of-the-mill movie about teenage angst, however, thanks to the excellence of the acting (particularly that of Civil and Thomassin), the sharply written script and the portrayal of the twins’ bizarre world.


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