ANGELE AND TONY
France, 2010, 82 minutes. Colour.
Clotilde Hesme, Gregory Gadebois, Evelyne Didi, Jerome Huguet, Antoine Couleau, Patrick Descamps.
Directed by Alix Delaporte.
What’s in a name? Immediately, as the film opens, we see in a casual sex encounter that Angele is no angel. Within minutes we see her as bluntly aggressive and botching chances for some kind of self-betterment.
Of course, that is not the sum total of Angele’s character. There is a lot more as we get to know her, not necessarily like her, as the film creates a portrait of this 27 year old mother of a nine year old boy, out of prison and reporting to her parole officer, making some attempts at settling, but wary of people.
The characters in the film are ordinary people, people like those we might know or have met. And that is a great strength of the film. We are dealing with real people, real situations, messy and confusing as they can be. The way that the film has been written and filmed – and the director, Alix Delaporte had a previous career as a journalist, so she brings an eye for character and situations to her screenplay – is in a very naturalistic style. As we are shown a village street corner, as we travel on a Normandy fishing boat, as we notice the buildings where the characters interact, the film has a ‘documentary’ realism and an eye for detail. This is very impressive.
And Tony? He is a fisherman (where threats to the industry mean protests, strikes and arrests instead of the traditional fishing festivals, decorating of the boats and putting on of plays) who works with his brother, whose father has drowned but his body has not been found and recovered, who in middle age is living with his mother to support her. His mother works in the fish market.
Will Angele click with Tony? Is she the kind of woman he could love and marry? Will his mother accept her after learning about Angele’s past? Will her little boy accept her? Will he choose to live with his grandparents? Plenty of dramatic questions for the film’s brief running time. And all made interesting.
Clotilde Hesme has to carry most of the film. She is a tall and striking-looking woman and is able to communicate both aggression and vulnerability. When she is finally able to smile, her face (and our response to her) is transformed. Gregory Gadebois is a theatre actor but makes Tony a very ordinary, unremarkable when seen in the street, middle-aged fisherman. Evelyne Didi seems every bit the old-style fishwife but also mellows and shows her vulnerability. Antoine Couteau is effective as the young son and Patick Descamps a sympathetic grandfather.
By the end of the film, which has a nice surrealistic touch, as Angele, Tony and the boy clamber over the rocks and pools on the shore, we feel we have been there and got to know these people.
1. A humane film? A slice of ordinary life?
2. The naturalism of the film-making? The director’s journalistic background? The audiences identifying with the characters or knowing characters like this? Their seemingly so real? The effect of looking at their lives?
3. The location photography and its style, the town, the coast, the sea, the countryside and the shore? The attention to detail, the houses, exteriors and interiors, the boats, the festival, the courts? The streets and the hills, the corners, the rocks – the attention to realistic detail? The musical score?
4. The title and its focus?
5. The initial impressions of Angele, the sex with the Asian young man, buying the toy, sex as payment, casual, impersonal? The personal columns? Going to meet Tony, the café, his being late, her bluntness, his reaction to her directness and leaving?
6. The developed portrait of Angele? Her age, having her son at eighteen? Her husband’s death? The boy with his grandparents? Her time in prison, parole, reporting to her officer, their discussions, his concern for her, his dismay at her bluntness? Aggressive and determined, yet fragile? Her son, at the school, wanting to give the gift, leaving it with the grandfather? Her job, stealing the bike, the scenes of her riding the bike? Her return to Tony? The discussions about the arrangement, the work, his instructing her about the fish and identifying them? Myriam and her hostility – and her pointing out her errors in selling the wrong fish at the market?
7. When did Angele change? Her place in the family, her friendship with Ryan, moving into the house, the room? Going to her son in the emergency, his locking himself in the toilet? Her discussions with the judge? With the grandfather? Her relationship with Tony, talking, his decency, the sexual encounters? The possibilities for a future?
8. Tony, responding to the personals, late arrival, his age, appearance, expectations? His driving with Angele? The importance of the death of his father, not recovering the body, Ryan and his concern, Myriam and her hostility? His staying with his mother? Angele’s return?
9. The death of his father, the divers, finding the body?
10. The world of the boats, decorating them for the festival, Angele and her making the artificial flowers? The play, Snow White, the rehearsals, doing her lines with Tony?
11. The play, the director, friendship with Angele? Her mellowing?
12. Yohan and his visit? Tony and his being arrested, the background of the strikes, the fishermen and their losing their jobs, the temptation to work in factories? The protests and the demonstrations? Going to the jail, Tony coming out, seeing Yoan? Angele telling him the truth – and his feeling that she had thought he was dumb? The development of the relationship, the plans for the marriage, off and on? Her ambiguous replies to the judge and her parole officer?
13. Going to the court, the grandparents, Yohan going in first, Angele’s impatience, going to the judge, admitting that Yohan wanted to stay with his grandparents?
14. The wedding scene, Yohan coming, the grandfather bringing him, the grandmother not knowing? The photos? Yohan and his question about the crabs, going down to the rocks, the surrealism of Angele on the rocks with her wedding dress on? The family picture – the explanation of the crabs and holding them? The smile of joy on Angele’s face?