A Radiant Girl
“Pleasure,” viewers are told by Irene’s acting professor, “is infectious”. This is the best way of describing the effect of watching actor-turned-director Sandrine Kiberlain’s feature debut A Radiant Girl. Through the course of watching this film, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the unrelenting optimism of the 19-year-old protagonist (a spectacular Rebecca Marder, Spring Blossom). She constantly toys with and teases her family, she chases after love and dreams of becoming a stage actor. Nothing can break her spirit, not even the growing threat that the Nazi occupation holds over her Jewish family.
Kiberlain presents the events of her story through Irene’s eyes. To the teenager, it’s just another summer in which café dates and picturesque bike rides take up most of her time. In fact, audiences would be unaware that there was a war going on if it weren’t for some telling dialogue overheard from her concerned father (André Marcon). The teen’s joy, whether she’s fully aware of the severity of the situation or if she simply chooses to ignore it, is a lasting symbol of hope and a reminder that happiness can be found even in the darkest moments.
This debut wouldn’t have half its charm if it weren’t for Marder’s shining performance; she’s the very life and soul of each scene. It’s impossible not to fall under her spell as she dances down the street without a care, the music matching her romanticised outlook of the world. As the reality of her situation becomes harder to escape, though, Marder leaves the slightest of gaps for viewers to glimpse behind her vivacious façade and see a more vulnerable character. It would have been preferable if the script took a breath to explore this side of Irene, however a gut-punch ending delivers a devastating blow before there’s any time.
Between Marder’s exquisite performance and Kiberlain’s powerful yet subdued storytelling, radiant is the perfect word to summarise the writer-director’s feature debut.
A Radiant Girl does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.