leave a comment --Ken Fox
French director Eleonore Faucher's debut feature, which won the Critics' Week Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, is an unusual look at the bond that forms between two very different women. One is middle-aged and mourning the loss of her grown son; the other is a teenager about to give birth to a baby she's not sure she wants. Determined to live life on her own terms away from her parents' constant bickering, 17-year-old Claire Moutiers (Lola Naymark) has moved off the family farm and into a small apartment in the nearby town of Angouleme. Claire supports herself by working as a cashier at the local supermarket, but hopes one day to turn her flair for embroidery into a career; she's even been trading the cabbages she nicks from her parents' cabbage patch for rabbit pelts onto which she stitches elaborate designs. Right now, however, Claire must deal with her immediate future. Thanks to a brief fling with a supermarket butcher, Claire is five months pregnant, though she's managed to hide her ballooning belly from both her parents and coworkers. Claire's plan is to give birth anonymously at a hospital, then immediately put the baby up for adoption; in the meantime, she needs a place to hole up until she's ready to deliver. Claire confides in her best friend, Lucile (Marie Felix), but it's Lucile's mother who gives her the idea of paying a visit to Mme Melikian (Ariane Ascaride), a striking, middle-aged French-Armenian woman who embroiders exquisite pieces for some of Paris' most prestigious designers. Mme Melikian's son was killed recently when the motorcycle driven by Lucile's brother, Guillaume (Thomas Laroppe), went into a skid. Guillaume survived the crash, but like Mme Melikian, he's been deeply depressed ever since. Hoping to make her deadline for a large order of embroidered linens, Mme Melikian agrees to take Claire on as an apprentice, but remains aloof in her grief. It's not until Claire saves her from a suicide attempt that the bereft mother begins to bond with her young apprentice. Claire, meanwhile, begins having second thoughts about her baby and, as her desire for Guillaume and her affection for Mme Melikian grow, starts considering the possibility of raising the child herself. Presented with a minimum of sentimentality and melodramatic fuss, Faucher's modest film isn't quite as raw as Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's ROSETTA (1999), another film in which a guarded young woman must face not only premature adulthood but the greater challenge of opening herself up emotionally to the world around her. Touched with eerie dream sequences, the film casts a strange spell that's enhanced by the rhythmic, almost sensual depiction of the painstaking art of embroidery.