The Worst Ones (Les Pires)
Exuberant audience reactions to The Worst Ones at its premiere in Cannes were already the first indication of the neorealist picture being the obvious candidate to win the festival’s Un Certain Regard section.
A film crew is street-casting children for a feature set in a deprived area in coastal France. One of the participating youths asks the director whether rumours are true that only “the worst ones” will be chosen to be in the film. Many of the selected cast come from broken homes and have experience with juvenile detention. The audience is introduced to the protagonists through their audition tapes, following them through rehearsals and the filming process, which culminates in a screening of the finished film.
In their first feature, directing duo Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret examine the ethical dilemmas behind not only working with children, but seeking out those who have never expressed any desire to become actors in the recurring quest for realness. The film-within-the-film’s director (Johan Heldenberg) has genuinely good intentions, but any lapse could result in a traumatic experience for these vulnerable non-actors. While the filmmaker displays sensitivity in some scenes, in another he is painfully oblivious to one of his protagonists having lied about losing his virginity. But even if that were not the case, in what instance would “You act as if you never touched a girl!” actually be helpful direction for a scene? The enactment of a love scene between two of the teenagers is as uncomfortable to watch as Lily’s (Mallory Wanecque) crush on the sound recordist twice her age.
There is a brief but memorable sense of weaning the children off the close bond they have experienced on set, as the production draws to a close, which perfectly rounds up what a fragile world the creative process of filmmaking can be.
Every single member of the young cast playing their fictional counterparts brings an extraordinary texture and raw talent to the French production, which silently makes the argument for why all the complexity depicted is worth it if it leads to such results.
The Worst Ones (Les Pires) 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.