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Reviews of the Lab Young Critics

Les Arcs Preview: Coming of age for all ages in "No Love Lost"

By Vinzent Wesselmann


In his second feature film, No Love Lost (originally entitled La fille de son père, meaning “Her father’s daughter”) which screened in the Preview section of the 15th Les Arcs Film Festival, the journalist-turned-filmmaker Erwan le Duc presents a coming-of-age story that subverts the tropes usually found within the genre. 

Etienne, played by the captivating Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, is a single father whose life has hardly changed since the mother of his daughter abandoned him at the age of 20. Now 36, he is a comically devoted recreational football coach in his hometown, living with his daughter Rosa (the promising Céleste Brunnquelle) in the house he inherited from his parents. Rosa has all the attributes of seventeen-year-old protagonists who have preceded her in this genre: a steely gaze, misunderstood emotions, artistic ambitions, and an endless supply of teenage ennui. When she is accepted to an art school out of town, Etienne worries that she won’t manage on her own. Yet a coincidental glimpse of Rosa’s mother on television, followed by a desperate attempt to find her, quickly reveals that it is Etienne, not his daughter, who must finally come of age.

The film begins with a swift music montage of Étienne’s romance with Rosa’s mother, from a brief flirtation on the football field to a chance encounter at a protest in Paris that leads to their passionate affair. These vibrant scenes of youth are propelled forward by the energetic orchestral compositions of Julie Roué, a longtime collaborator of Erwan le Duc. Yet the colorful banners, yelling students, close calls with the police, and sex on the Seine which characterize Étienne’s youth, could not be more different from the woefully austere activism of his daughter and the monotony of fatherhood which occupies most of the film. In one early example, Etienne encounters dozens of teenagers staging a “die-in” against climate change in Rosa’s school, the young bodies lying stiff and motionless in the silent lobby.

And these bodies are no more animated in the bedroom. Erwan le Duc’s depiction of teenage life reflects the confusion his millennial contemporaries have with the tell-tale traits of Gen Z: less sex, less partying, and a general malaise for the future. Rosa’s boyfriend, Youssef (played by the talent-to-watch Mohammed Louridi) sleeps at the foot of his girlfriend’s bed and forgoes his sexual urges for the romantic glory of poetic declarations of love. When he mentions this over a family dinner with Rosa, Étienne, and Étienne’s girlfriend Hélène (Maud Wyler), the adults stare back at a loss for words — are the kids alright?

Yes, they are. Unlike his stoic and self-sufficient daughter, Étienne is constantly shown running to catch up with the women who rule his life: Rosa, Hélène, and Rosa’s mother. The casting is brilliant in this regard: Biscayart and Brunquelle share the same height and deep blue eyes, yet Rosa’s icy stare could cut steel while Étienne’s glazes over in defeat. When Rosa moves out for art school, he decides to move into an empty, stark-white apartment with Hélène. The aesthetic contrast of these two spaces emphasizes the fact that Étienne seems too old for the former and too young for the latter: he is not “of age” in either setting. 

Le Duc’s liberal interpretation of reality allows for sudden moments of surrealism in the  otherwise uneventful small town. In the empty apartment, for example, Hélène says her piano would fit perfectly against the wall and mimes striking a chord. The sound is heard, only there is no piano. These moments come unannounced, without the aesthetic queues of a dreamscape, adding a touch of whimsy to Étienne’s static reality.

The last quarter of the film leans into this dreamlike quality, relying upon overly convenient coincidences to move the narrative forward. What begins as an attentive study of a father-daughter relationship thus unfortunately ends in a rushed finale, making the plot feel relatively tangential to the broader themes the film so expertly presents. Nevertheless, the effortless chemistry between Biscaryat and Brunquelle, combined with the surrealist cinematography present throughout the narrative, makes for a compelling film which shows that a coming-of-age can occur at any age. 

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