Dreamlife of Angels, The: Erick Zonca’s Lyrical, Touching Tale of Female Friendship

Friendship between women, especially from the working class, has seldom been depicted with such attention to detail, emotional depth, and lyrical touches as in The Dreamlife of Angels (La Vie rêvée des anges), directed by Erick Zonca in 1998.

This French entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar was not among the five nominees, but it put Zonca on the map of major talents to watch and was a major winner at the Cesars (French Oscars).

Élodie Bouchez and Natacha Régnier well deserved the acting kudos bestowed on them at the 1998 Cannes Film Fest. Later on, Bouchez also earned the Cesar Award, and Regnier the “most promising” actress.

Rather unusually, a Dreamlife of Angels was the Best Film winner at both the Cesar and Lumiere Awards.

The tale centers on two young and eccentric femmes, Isa and Marie. A drifter who realizes that her search for a former lover is futile, she meets Marie, who lives in a provincial town around Lille.

The two immediately bond, based on similar pasts and interests. Both have been treated harshly by life, living from hand to mouthy in temporary jobs, a factory or delivering leaflets in the streets.

Marie lives in an apartment whose owners had a car accident in which everyone died, except for Sandrine, a teenager, now in a state of coma and at the hospital.

Isa and Marie meet up and befriend two bouncers, Fredo and Charly, who help them out and offer some joy, even if they are not much better off than their female counterparts.

Isa is a pragmatic survivor, who always lands on her own two feet and has a casual attitude toward life. In contrast, Marie is less expressive emotionally, and far more vulnerable. Despite a relationship with Charly, she tries to escape with playboy-womanizer Chriss, a rich nightclub owner.

Meanwhile, Isa refuses to sleep with her boyfriend Fredo, drawing her strength from within, while Marie is emotionally dependent on Chriss, who does not love her; Isa warns Marie but to no avail.

Indeed, instead of breaking up with Marie in person, he asks Isa to tell her, fearing the consequences, even after Marie keeps calling him.

Sandrine comes out of her coma, but Isa decides not to see her while she is awake. Upon realizing Chriss’ decision to end the relationship, Marie jumps out of a window.

The film ends almost as it began–with Isa, alone, working in a new factory.

The Dreamlife of Angels is a wonderful companion piece to another great French film about friendship between women, albeit more mature and in different socio-political contexts, Diane Kuris’ 1983 masterpiece, Entre Nous, starring the incomparable Isabelle Huppert and Miou Miou.



Elodie Bouchez as Isabelle ‘Isa’ Tostin

Natacha Regnier as Marie Thomas

Gregoire Colin as Chriss

Patrick Mercado as Charly

Jo Prestia as Fredo

Louise Motte as Sandrine

Frédérique Hazard as Marie’s mother