Les enfants des autres [Other People’s Children] (2022)

Les enfants des autres
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Writer: Rebecca Zlotowski
Cast: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Yamée Couture, Henri-Noël Tabary, Victor Lefebvre, Sébastien Pouderoux, Michel Zlotowski, Mireille Perrier, Frederick Wiseman
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2022

Rachel (Virginie Efira) is a teacher – a job she loves. And she has just fallen in love with Ali (Roschdy Zem). Things are really good. When Ali tells her that he has a young daughter, Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves), Rachel is curious to meet her. Dating when a young child is involved comes with its own challenges though and Ali and Rachel have to be careful to navigate them. As Rachel and Leila grow closer, Rachel starts to think about her decision so far not to have children herself.

Les enfants des autres is an engaging, emotional film that had my attention every second along the way. It is never flashy or larger than life, it is always life-sized, if you will, and even more fascinating for it.

The film poster showing Rachel (Virginie Efira), Ali (Roschdy Zem) and Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves) in a tight embrace.

Les enfants des autres is very different from Une fille facile, the film Zlotowski made before this one, though not in quality: it is much calmer and sweeter, which might also have to do with the choice of main characters and their situation in life. In any case, the same thread of honest realism runs through the two films, giving the films an almost documenting touch, though clearly telling fictional stories. In the case of Les enfants, a hilarious cameo by Frederick Wiseman as a gynecologist seems to support this analysis as the documentarian becomes a fictional character.

Les enfants des autres is not interested in great, movie-like drama. It’s a film filled with the regular ups and downs of life, and relationships and how they can fall apart, even when everybody involved is a decent person. It is a very clear look at what it means to date when a child is involved, how that necessarily shapes the relationship of the adults. It’s not just Rachel and Ali who have to find out whether they can make this a long-term relationship together, but Rachel, Ali and Leila. And Rachel is naturally in a weaker position there.

Rachel (Virginie Efira) leaning into Ali (Roschdy Zem).

Zlotowski carefully approaches her topic, focusing mostly on Rachel. Efira gives a beautiful performance that really brings Rachel to life. She is full of energy, caring and has a rich social life. When she starts wondering about being a mother herself, it is never out of a sense of desperation or bitterness. Her life wouldn’t be empty if she never had children. But that doesn’t mean that she might not want any herself.

The film gives us a very mature look at relationship, showing that maturity isn’t at odds with deep emotions, nor with a certain sense of levity, even when things don’t go as planned. I really loved its perspective, the way it treated its characters and simply the film itself.

Rachel (Virginie Efira) talking to Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves).

Summarizing: beautiful.

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