Other People’s Children
Intimate French films. They hold a curious little enclave in the heart of the cinema lover, requiring an appetite for a certain romantic mood. Rebecca Zlotowski’s Other People’s Children is a prime example: it’s entirely engaging, it opens its door wide to the viewer and it’s just so French.
The feature tells the tale of Rachel (Virginie Efira), who finds love in the form of Ali (Roschdy Zem), a divorcee with a young daughter called Leila. This dynamic is explored in depth from every perspective, amongst the three of them and incorporating Leila’s mother too. The emotional complexity of the situation is vividly captured and an affinity for the characters and their fortunes blossoms unavoidably. The viewer comes to care for them devotedly, feeling each of their emotions alongside them. Some high-quality performances are to thank for this, of course – most particularly from Efira and Callie Ferreira-Goncalves as young Leila.
Other People’s Children is a wonderfully and delicately put-together piece. Unlike the convoluted melodrama of so many of today’s blockbusters, it’s a straightforward story produced in dazzling, nuanced depth, at once joyous and devastating. It’s quite ambitiously shot, cinematic creativity lurking somewhere near the cusp of what could be considered appropriate for the mood of the film – in other words, immaculately judged.
A strange subplot lingers, touching upon the fortunes of one of Rachel’s students, Dylan. He is another “somebody else’s child”, who she forms a bond with and is willing to fight for. It also feeds that classic cinematic white elephant, the uncalled-for epilogue (oh, how many would-be deliciously poised endings have been squandered by the tacking on of an “and here they are now” closing scene?). Also straying a little from perfection is the soundtrack: while Shostakovich’s second piano concerto is an extraordinary piece of music, its persistent rehashing in various guises was never likely to have a 100% success rate.
Nevertheless, these minor faults hardly take away from what is a beautiful film. The intricacies of cultivating a relationship with a partner’s child are the emotional centrepiece and are treated with astonishing reverence and sensitivity. Splendid performances from all corners round off a lovely watch – Other People’s Children is not one to be missed.
Other People’s Children is released in select cinemas on 17th March 2023.
Watch the trailer for Other People’s Children here: