Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Nenette Et Boni
France, 1996. Canal+, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Dacia Films, IMA Productions, La Sept Cinema. Screenplay by Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau. Cinematography by Agnes Godard. Produced by Georges Benayoun. Music by Tindersticks. Production Design by Arnaud de Moleron. Costume Design by Elisabeth Tavernier. Film Editing by Yann Dedet. Independent Spirit Awards 1997. Toronto International Film Festival 1996.
Claire Denis often finds a way to tell a recognizable story in the most original and unexpected ways, getting inside the emotional world of her characters for something that feels fresh and unexpected. Antoinette (Alice Houri) runs away from boarding school and heads to Marseille to find her brother Boniface (Grégoire Colin), a vendor who sells pizza out of his van while also getting involved in some rather shady trouble with his friends. Their mother is deceased and their estranged father runs a successful lamp store while himself involved with even shadier individuals, and resulting in even bigger trouble. Nenette tells Boni that she’s pregnant and needs to do something about it, but he’s too obsessed with the beautiful wife of a baker (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) who we see running her store while blissfully enjoying her days with her husband (Vincent Gallo). Their father tries to reconnect with them both and is rejected, while the siblings go in their own directions with how to deal with the baby on its way, their dysfunction as a family running so deep that even when trying to help each other they can only fall back on their habit of doing things in their own destructive manner. The ending provides a bit more shocking melodrama than the languid movements of the plot would suggest, but it’s an absorbing and sensitive film that cares deeply about the struggles of its characters and does its best to find out who they are and why they behave the way they do; Denis presents a dark and unforgiving world and focuses on finding as many bright and hopeful moments in it as she can.