Angel Face (Gueule d’Ange)
Vanessa Filho’s Angel Face tells the tale of a dysfunctional relationship between a tragically flawed mother and her young daughter. What initially seems to be a compelling tale of personal struggle and redemption quickly spirals into nonsense with dangerous implications.
Marlene (Marion Cottilard) is a reckless party-girl. She acts selfishly in all aspects of her life: cheating on her husband on their wedding night and constantly preferring to get drunk over spending time with her daughter Elli (Ayline Aksoy-Etaix). The mother’s deep-seated ideology that physical beauty is the most valuable quality in a woman – and her resulting obsession with physical appearances – immediately presents itself as one of the several problematic themes. Her idea of quality time with Elli is in making her up like a human doll for a party, as opposed to taking her to the local carnival. The child begins to mimic her mum’s behaviour and sneaks sips of alcohol – a habit which later becomes a full-blown dependency. Disturbingly, this childhood addiction is portrayed rather flippantly, as if it’s just a naughty little habit she picked up. There’s also the strange and frankly uncomfortable sexualisation of Elli, a character who’s supposed to be eight years old. When she shows up to school with a light coat of pink lipstick, her classmates call her a “cougar” and proceed to ask if she’s ever had sex before. This seems very aggressive for a little bit of lip gloss.
Thematic oddities aside, the film slides further into nonsense with a series of bizarre and incoherent imagery which perhaps is meant to visually display the inner confusion and anger of Elli’s world after Marlene inexplicably abandons her. It’s an interesting attempt at creative storytelling, but the effect is rather disorienting considering the rest of the feature is based in realism and reality.
Hope finally presents itself in the form of an adult male, Julio (Alban Lenoir), who timidly befriends Elli, but even he isn’t able to act effectively enough to save her. In fact, none of the grown-ups seem to notice or care that she’s been abandoned and is forced to fend for herself. This isn’t a case of a bad mum not stepping up; this is a movie which glamourises and romanticises the neglect of a child, rationalised by the idea that she is a doll to be picked up and put down when it is no longer convenient.
Generally speaking, artists have to be careful about the messages they put out into the world. Although it is most likely unintentional, Angel Face nonetheless makes some pretty disturbing statements that border on irresponsible.
Angel Face (Gueule d’Ange) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Angel Face (Gueule d’Ange) here: