Une fille facile [An Easy Girl] (2019)

Une fille facile
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Writer: Rebecca Zlotowski, Teddy Lussi-Modeste
Cast: Mina Farid, Zahia Dehar, Benoît Magimel, Nuno Lopes, Clotilde Courau, Loubna Abidar, Lakdhar Dridi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2019

Naïma (Mina Farid) is 16 and nearing the end of her school, so decisions need to be made about the next steps in her life. She wants to spend the summer holidays thinking about that, when her cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar) shows up in Cannes to stay with the family over the summer. Sofia is obviously doing well in Paris, being able to afford expensive stuff or rather, not having trouble accepting them as gifts from men. Naïma is intrigued by her beautiful and successful cousin. When Sofia catches the attention of Andres (Nuno Lopes) who is in Cannes with his yacht and his trusted employee-slash-friend Philippe (Benoît Magimel), Sofia introduces Naïma to a whole new world.

Une fille facile is a beautifully shot, very smart look at power dynamics shaped by gender, class and race. It’s sharp and critical, but never judgmental of the two young women who are trying to find their way. I loved it.

The film poster showing Sofia (Zahia Dehar) and Naïma (Mina Farid) walking together.

Une fille facile is a film filled with sunshine, warmth and beautiful people. It feels light and easy, at least at first. Just as Sofia, the film is deceptively easy though. If you scratch the surface even the tiniest bit, you see that there is a lot of dark stuff underneath that glittering exterior. Not only does Sofia have to face outright disparaging comments and looks – she does so with so much charm, it would be easy to miss the hurt, but it’s there (kudos to Dehar) – there’s also outright cruelty from Andres when he tires of her. That he will tire of her is never in any doubt, though.

By showing Naïma and her family – her mother works as a maid in the hotel where Andres takes them out for a fancy dinner – the film becomes more than “just” the story of a woman fighting for a place at the table in any way she can, be it as eye candy. It looks at how, specifically, a poor woman of color might get what she sees the rich people around her having. Thus it becomes a scathing criticism of class, gender and racial inequality and its many insidious tendrils.

Sofia (Zahia Dehar) and Naïma (Mina Farid) at the beach together.

For Naïma the situation is a little different. She’s at the precipice, she hasn’t chosen a path yet. Seduced by the shiny things Sofia can so easily afford, she quickly realizes how little power Sofia really has in the situation. Instead, she becomes intrigued by Philippe’s role in Andres’ life (and I thank the heavens and Zlotowski that it is not a sexual thing between them. At least in that regard, Philippe is fundamentally decent). He’s the middleman, the organizer, the confidante. But in the end, though Andres may say he is his friend, he is an employee. And Naïma has to consider whether this is a role she would like to take on herself. It certainly means playing the game, albeit in a different way than Sofia. And rising to the top in the game seems to mean giving up the last bit of your decency.

The film navigates a complex world in an insightful and realistic way, and with an absolute great cast, perfectly chosen for their respective roles and generally excellent. It looks really gorgeous, and it definitely had my attention for every second along the way. It’s certainly Zlotowski’s best film so far. I can really only recommend it.

Sofia (Zahia Dehar) and Naïma (Mina Farid) walking behind Philippe (Benoît Magimel) and Andres (Nuno Lopes).

Summarizing: Fantastic.

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