The feature debut of director Lola Quivoron, Rodeo tells the story of Julia (Julie Ledru), a young misfit with a passion for motorcycles and a knack for stealing them from rich people. At an illicit gathering of motorcyclists, she falls in with Kais (Yanis Lafki) and joins his gang. An outsider in a male-dominated world, Julia struggles to prove herself to the clique but perseveres in the pursuit of her passions, yet the demands of this volatile and hostile system threaten to consume her at every step.
Rodeo is a film that has a lot to say, covering a range of complex topics including classism, misogyny and queer identity over its runtime. It’s a testament to the strength of the writing that these talking points are all worked in seamlessly, intelligently interacting with the story and characters, as well as each other, without being overwhelming.
The movie is also very effectively paced, moving elements along at a speed befitting the motorcycle gang’s crash-and-burn lifestyle, while ensuring each arc gets the narrative fuel it needs to burn brightly. It’s a film that constantly keeps its audience on its toes, but also works hard to do its story and characters justice.
The cinematography is tense and claustrophobic, placing the audience far too close for comfort and denying the narrative or the viewers a single moment to breathe. This camerawork does a fantastic job at conveying a sense of constant danger and stress: the tiniest movements and smallest pieces of dialogue are intensified and amplified, conveying the sense that the world Julia has found herself in is a power keg constantly waiting to explode. Each conversation feels about as risky as the motorcycle stunts, which themselves feature top-notch choreography and cinematography.
This sense of tension is helped by the great acting across the board. Ledru gives an amazing performance as Julia, conveying an array of complex emotions and bringing heaps of charisma and presence to the central role. Lafki is a solid counterpart as the more level-headed Kais, and the film’s co-writer Antonia Buresi puts in a strong performance as Ophélie, the wife of crime boss Domino (Sébastien Schroeder).
Overall, Rodeo is a terrific feature debut for Quivoron, a constantly exhilarating and deeply compelling cinematic experience that combines powerful and emotive character work with an intelligent editorial eye and incisive social commentary.
Rodeo does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Rodeo here: