Other People’s Children offers some romantic food for thought

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

other people’s children is a rom-com from French writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski that will reignite lost loves, seep into the pores of cynics, and convince Sundance fans that the passion for parenthood doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

Much of this magic trick is effortlessly brought to screen by exuberant lead actress Virginie Efira, who plays high school teacher Rachel Friedman. Separated from Paul (Sebastien Pouderoux), her partner of eight years, she meets Ali (Roschdy Zem) and falls in love with him. In turn, he and his ex-wife Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) are parents to his daughter Leila (Callie Ferreira-Gonvales), who take turns picking them up from judo.

They meet through their mutual appreciation of the guitar, which they are both trying to learn. Their easy chemistry — combined with a sparkling script by Zlotowski — not only relieves the pressure on audiences to connect emotionally, but deftly sidesteps a genre staple as events progress effortlessly. As they drift from one romantic transition to the next, nothing feels forced as Ali and Rebecca just keep falling in love.

For fans of traditional rom-coms other people’s children will feel distinctly different, as there’s no obvious meet-and-cute combination, no obstacle to happiness that feels artificial, and ultimately no big payoff to justify the emotional investment. Together, Ali and Rachel just find their way in love while dealing with Leila’s initial rejection and Alice’s amicable introduction without missing a beat.

This refreshing approach, which sidesteps convention in favor of observational storytelling, means that other people’s children gets under your skin and stays there. Trials and trials that feed into this deceptively complex narrative touch on women’s innate predisposition to procreate and also address it more openly in a social sense. Headliners Zem and Efira seamlessly convey these themes throughout their respective performances, while Ferreira Goncalves completes the equation by upping the cuteness factor as Leila.

Where it really pulls the rug out from under the audience, however, is in its restrained resolution. Rachel and Ali may have disagreements and these can be resolved in a convincing manner, but the understated conclusion of other people’s children feels so real it may not be fictional.

It speaks to parents around the world who have had to make similar decisions when it comes to matters of the heart. From a single parent’s perspective, when a prospective partner is rejected by their children, the connection they feel is doomed. Should an emotional upheaval unexpectedly bring parents back together, these people must try again for the sake of their little ones.

This may not be good cinema, or particularly dramatic for Hollywood purposes, but in the context of other people’s children it hits home. There is an emotional maturity that comes to the fore in the conversations between Rachel and Ali in these final stages that reverberates well beyond the confines of this fictional world.

There’s no icing on the cake in a pivotal scene played out between Virginie and her young protégé as Rachel and Ali decide to break up. Though compassionate, Leila is being told the truth by an adult who is trying her best to walk away clean from someone she still loves dearly. There is no subtext, no subterfuge, and no audience manipulation taking place in that moment – just a situation, drawn from life and delicately conveyed by the character.

Other supporting players outside of our central trio are Yame Couture as Rachel’s sister, Louana, as well as Michel Zlotowski, who plays the patriarch for both of them. Each offers some solid character input, as well as sarcasm in spades to balance any touches of romance that might otherwise overwhelm the story.

In an industry defined by formulas, increasingly dictated by committees, and overseen by bean counters trying to make as much money as possible – other people’s children tries to resist the system. Zlotowski adheres to storytelling conventions but intentionally layers them with more than a grain of truth and has created something honest.

No tricks, no manipulation, and most importantly, no need to overdo the pudding — this Sundance entry deserves all the attention it can get.

Highest Awards

As complex as it is compassionate, Other People’s Children offers outstanding performances and endless nuances. For the incurable romantic and cynic alike, this film deserves to be seen by a large audience.

https://wegotthiscovered.com/reviews/sundance-review-other-peoples-children-is-a-rom-com-romance-filled-with-revelations/ Other People’s Children offers some romantic food for thought

Lindsay Lowe

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