A Nos Amours (1984): Maurice Pialat’s Best Film, Starring Sandrine Bonnaire in Stunning Debut

As directed by French filmmaker Maurice Pialat, A Nos Amours is a startlingly honest intimate coming-of-age melodrama with a stunning debut performance from Sandrine Bonnaire, who was only 17 at the time.

À Nos Amours

Film poster

Disregarding issues of conventional morality, Pialat depicts a 15 year old girl, Suzanne, who explores her sexuality against the setting of a dysfunctional family that’s violent and incestuous.  The girl’s adolescence, a tough phase under any circumstances, becomes almost intolerable due to her fractured home life: a hysterical mother, a father who threatens to walk out, and a brother who may be too affectionate in his feelings for his sister.

Insecure and needy, Suzanne sleeps with any guy who shows interest in her, except for one boy, the genuine Luc (Cyrl Boitard), who is in love with her.

Pialat’s point of view is consistent, showing all the events from Suzanne’s subjective perspective. Refusing to judge his characters, Pialat goes for detailed portrayals of all the relationships and in the process gets compelling performances from the entire ensemble. There’s a late-night conversation scene that may be the most intimate and poignant father-daughter in movies (Pialat cast himself as the father). The father is the only family member she can be honest with because she knows that he genuinely understands and unconditionally loves her.

Arlette Langmann’s screenplay, “Les filles du faubourg,” was written in the 1970s and set in the 1960s. After pitching the script to the National Center of Cinematography and Gaumont Film Company, Pialat began seeking funds to shoot it when his project Les Meurtrières floundered.

In the original story, the characters are Polish Jews, but Pialat makes only few references to the family’s heritage. He also aborted the period drama elements, shifting the setting from the 1960s to the present, and avoiding mentions of politics or contraception.

“A Nos Amours,” which played at the New York Film Festival, won the Cesar (French Oscar) for Best Picture and put Bonnaire at the forefront of young French actresses. A year later, Agnes Varda would cast her in “Vagabond,” an intense depiction of a homeless girl, for which she won the Cesar for Best Actress (See my review).


French (To Our Loves)

Running time: 102 Minutes

Directed by Pialat.
Co-written by Arlette Langmann and Pialat.
Music by Henry Purcell.
Cinematography: Jacques Loiseleux.

Sandrine Bonnaire as Suzanne
Evelyne Ker as The Mother
Dominique Besnehard as Robert
Maurice Pialat as The Father
Anne-Sophie Maillé as Anne
Maïté Maillé as Martine
Christophe Odent as Michel
Pierre-Loup Rajot as Bernard
Cyr Boitard as Luc
Cyril Collard as Jean-Pierre