“I wanted to deconstruct the clichés around social drama”: Paloma Sermon-Daï on It’s Raining in the House
It’s Raining in the House is the Wallonia-set film from Belgian filmmaker Paloma Sermon-Daï, starring real-life teenage siblings Purdey and Makenzy Lombet (who she collaborated previously with on her short Makenzy), using their own names for their characters. That’s not the only way real life seems to spill into the film, which is infused with the sensibility of a documentary, despite its fictionalised story, hinging on incredibly naturalistic performances that are captured up-close by Sermon-Daï’s observational approach. It builds on the trappings of a coming-of-age story, invoking the trope of the final summer before the dawn of adulthood, yet also subtly offers a fresh riff on expectations of the genre, exploring with nuance how older sister Purdey (on the cusp of 18) must balance her aspirations of becoming a nurse with the responsibility to support her brother, in lieu of any practical or emotional support from their mum who suffers with alcohol addiction. It’s an emotionally resonant look at the daily struggles faced by those who grow up in impoverished contexts, powerful for its ability to put the viewer in the shoes of its protagonists and feel intuitively their frustrations at life’s unjust constraints – but also their tenacity, moments of joy splashing on the shores of the local lake and the love-hate affection of familial bond.
The Upcoming sat down with the director during Cannes Film Festival 2023 to discuss why she was compelled to make the film, and in particular for showcasing a genuine brother-sister relationship, while breaking away from the clichés often found in social dramas. Sermon-Daï revealed the influence of her Walloon roots and prior documentary-making experience on her directing approach. Originally trained in camera and lighting, she spent a year preparing her untrained actors – a challenge that refined her directing methods. She shared how the feature is deeply immersed in the real-life experiences of the characters, drawing inspiration from directors like Harmony Korine and Larry Clark. The filmmaker also talked through the stylistic choices that make this work unique, such as the natural soundscape and lack of composed music. Finally, she shared her belief in the film’s universality and subtle political message, which focuses on the deprivation in the Walloon region, but could just as easily speak to a lack of social equality the world over.
Photo: Ambra Vernuccio
It’s Raining in the House does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.