Paris, 13th District
Jacques Audiard, whose film Dheepan won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2015, this year releases Paris, 13th District, which follows the lives of three millennials in Paris, exploring both their relationships with each other and their identities as individuals. The first the viewer meets is Emilie (Lucie Zhang), a Taiwanese-French woman who spends her time toiling at a thankless job, avoiding her mother’s calls and not going to visit her ailing grandmother in a care home (despite living in her apartment rent-free). When letting out her spare room she meets teacher Camille (Makita Zamba), who moves in, and they immediately start sleeping together. Despite her cool demeanour, the former becomes attached and jealous quickly, and the latter immediately breaks it off and starts sleeping with other people. Whilst this is happening, Nora (Noemie Merlant), who is in her early 30s, goes back to finish her law studies at college. She’s optimistic about her new life choice, but when she decides to wear a new wig to a party, she gets mistaken for a prominent cam girl, Amber Sweet, and gets cyber-bullied into leaving.
Nora’s story is much more moving; it’s clear that her return to education brings her immense anxiety but also hope. She spent ten years working for the estate agency of her uncle by marriage, with whom she had an affair. When she leaves university, she starts working in real estate again and meets Camille, who is saving up to further his teaching degree. They start dating, but the trauma of what happened at college makes Nora look up Amber Sweet and they start video calling, which then moves to private calls in which both women reveal more of themselves than they had anticipated. Emilie starts working as a waitress, feeling unsatisfied and filling the void with sex with various men. As the three narratives all merge with one another, the trio start to discover who they really are as people.
It’s difficult to connect with the character of Emilie, but Nora’s story, combined with Merlant’s performance, is the saving grace of the film. The audience yearns for the young woman to find her place in the world and the relationship between her and someone behind a screen is a lot more tangible than her bond with Camille. The black-and-white colour scheme does not suit the tone of the feature, but the electric soundtrack redeems it, capturing all of the hope and hopelessness of being a young adult and trying to find one’s place in the world.
Paris, 13th District is a strong millennial tale of love and loneliness that falls short of anything spectacular but remains a tender and raw portrayal of life.
Paris, 13th District is released in select cinemas on 18th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for Paris, 13th District here: