Angel Face: Vanessa Filho’s Family Drama, Starring Marion Cotillard

Vanessa Filho’s feature directing debut, Angel Face, world premiered at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2018 Cannes Film Fest.

The title of new film should not be confused with Ott Preminger’s great film noir of 1952, “Angel Face,” starring Robert Mitchum and the very young Jean Simmons.

In this disappointing family melodrama, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard stars as Marlene, an alcoholic mother, who keeps reassuring all those around her, especially her young daughter Elli ((Ayline Aksoy-Etaix) that “everything will be fine.”

It soon becomes clear that Marlene is not exactly a responsible mother, and that the traditional lines of duty—who takes care of whom, who is more emotionally mature—are rather blurred.

But to the outside world, the team keeps a façade, especially when social services, referred to as “the children police”—pay a visit to the household.

When Marlene, drive by erotic urges, runs away to spend time with her latest lover, Elli is left alone in the empty apartment, or seen accepting cash for kisses in the toilet of her school.

How damaging is Marlen’s influence on her child’s present and future?  Will Elli inevitably follow in her mother’s footsteps and descend into an empty life and moral limbo?  These are some of the significant issues that the movie raises but never deals with, let alone answers, in any substantial or satisfying ways.

Though the drama is rather intimate, its dialogue is full of clichés.  At one oint, Marlene says, “all of humanity is fucked up,” and Elli, who’s only 8, is as perplexed as we are by her statement.

Living in a seafront apartment, with a terrace, she is worried that her daughter might jump and “end it all.”  But is she really concerned?  Lacking sensitivity and self-awareness, Marlene doesn’t seem to care that she is causing embarrassment, or that the town relates to her with contempt and disgust.

Cotillard’s considerable acting skills and natural charisma are sadly wasted in a melodrama that is shallow, lacks nuance, and consists of depicting one scene of misery after another.

End note:

Ironically, I saw “Angel Face” on Mother’s Day!