Tag Archives: Noemie Merlant

Mama Mia

Baby Ruby

by Rachel Willis

Becoming a new mother is a joy. The sleepless nights, constant crying, bleeding heavily from your vagina for weeks, having a new human you’ve been entrusted to keep alive in your house.

Did I say joy? I meant horror show.

Writer/director Bess Wohl has turned new parenthood, particularly motherhood, into a tense, sometimes funny, horror movie with Baby Ruby.

New parents Jo and Spencer (Noémie Merlant and Kit Harington) have a lot to be thankful for when they bring new daughter Ruby home. Jo is a very successful blogger who is eager to prove her mettle as a new mom.

However, problems start right away. It’s unclear, to both Jo and the audience, if certain horrific events are real or dreams. Jo begins losing time. Ruby never stops crying.

There’s a certain amount of confusion and plenty of red herrings peppered through the film. Though it seems obvious what plagues Jo, the filmmakers want you off-balance. Is husband, Spencer, supportive – or is that smile vaguely sinister? Is someone whispering to Ruby through the baby monitor? Is Ruby angry with Jo?

These are the things that rattle Jo’s confidence. On top of her struggles with Ruby, all the other new moms make it look easy. Jo is introduced to several new moms at a local café. They’re all perfectly coifed in summer dresses, and their babies must sleep long enough for them to do their makeup. In comparison, Jo feels even more like a failure.

There’s a certain subtle humor to the film, even as it works to rachet up the tension.

Because of the desire to keep the audience guessing, there are a few moments when it feels like Wohl is trying too hard to scare you. Some of the horror works well, some segments are too heavy-handed. There is a dog and a dog-related low blow.

No offense to the parents of the babies playing Ruby, but they’re perfectly cast as they’re both adorable and a little creepy. Part of you wants to reach out and pick her up, while the other part is a bit put off by that weird little face.

The film nails several aspects of what makes being a new parent feel like a nightmare. It’s not surprising that many parents look back at those early days with hindsight and laugh. Otherwise, we might all feel like we’ve lived through a horror movie.

City of Love

Paris, 13th District

by Christie Robb

Director Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District is slow. Languorously slow. Like honey oozing off a comb. Like a flower unfurling. Like a relationship evolving over time.

Audiard’s film, which he co-wrote with Nicholas Livecchi and Lea Mysius based on stories by graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, follows the intertwined lives of Emilie, Camille, Nora, and Amber over the course of a year, give or take. Friendships develop and wane. Love affairs start and end.

All is shot in gorgeous black and white except for a bit that’s rather startling and in color.

The cast members are stunning (Lucie Zhang as Emilie, Makita Samba as Camille, Noemie Merlant as Nora, and Jehnny Beth as Amber) and the camera delights in lingering over their often naked bodies.  Their characters are complex and the actors play them with a realism and vulnerability that is frankly impressive.

It’s a realistic portrayal of a set of modern relationships with all the ecstasy and ugliness that makes them complicated and exciting and worth having.  

The plot features dating apps, cam girls, death, real estate,  cyberbullying, and MDMA. To say more about the story would wreck the experience of watching it and trying to anticipate how the characters’ lives will interconnect.

New Coat of Paint

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

by Hope Madden

Celine Sciamma follows up the vitally of-the-moment indie Girlhood with this breathy, painterly period romance only to clarify that she is a filmmaker with no identifiable bounds. In the 1790s on a forbidding island in Brittany, Marianne (Noemie Merlant) arrives to paint the wedding portrait of Heloise (Adele Haenel), but since Heloise is not marrying voluntarily, she will not sit for a painter. So, a ruse is developed: Marianne pretends to be simply a companion as she steals glances then sketches from memory into the night.

What develops along with the startlingly beautiful intimacy between the women is a thoughtful rumination on memory and on art, on the melancholic but no less romantic notion that the memory, though lonesome, is permanent and perfect.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a tenderly romantic film of self-discovery that asks a lot of questions.

What would life be like with no men at all, the film seems to ask. Unseen, nameless men (because we see very few) may rule the world, and the existence of one casts a pall over the events of the film. But, at least until Mother (Valeria Golino) returns with news of the wedding, this is a community of women.

On the island, women gather at a bonfire, passing time, singing and seeking each other’s guidance. In the austere mansion, Heloise, Marianne and servant Sophie (Luana Bajrami) look after one another. In a more intimate chamber, two women become friends and then lovers and then, likely, the most important relationship the other will ever have.

Offering a master class in visual storytelling, Sciamma relies far less on words than images, ending conversations or omitting them entirely, able instead to deliver meaning with a glance, a gesture, a flame or an ocean wave.

And with art. What Sciamma is able to convey about love, struggle, empowerment and art by virtue of the changing canvas on which Marianna must commit Heloise’s portrait is truly extraordinary.

Sciamam’s film has a painterly quality, frame after frame worthy of museum wall space. And yet, Portrait lacks artifice. Thomas Grezaud’s set design, Dorothee Guiraud’s costumes and, in particular, Claire Mathon’s cinematography blend together to create a costume drama worthy of the historical and art period in question.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is breathtakingly gorgeous. But, like Heloise’s portrait in the film, that’s not enough to make it a masterpiece. It’s the authenticity to the intimacy—perhaps partly born of the fact that Haenel and Sciamma are a real life couple—that’s inescapable, and it drives the piece.

Like Marianna’s final portrait, Sciamma’s film offers truth, and it’s astonishing.