Fat Girl (a Ma Soeur)

on October 12, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
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   Catherine Breillat's follow-up to 1999's ultra-controversial sexathon "Romance" proves that 25 years after her first film, "Une Vraie Jeune Fille," the veteran writer-director still has the power to shock: "A Ma Soeur" features an erect penis, a girl wetting herself and a vast amount of nudity--mostly from its young stars.

   Like her debut, Breillat's latest tells of a summer of sexual discovery. Beautiful 15-year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and her younger, larger sister Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) spend their vacation with their inattentive parents at the seaside. One languid afternoon, they meet handsome Italian law student Fernando (Libero de Rienzo) at a local café. While Anaïs comforts herself with a banana split, Elena shares a passionate embrace with the stranger and a romance is born. It is to be short-lived, but lengthy enough for Fernando to persuade Elena to offer him her virginity, which she does with some initial resistance. Fernando professes love for her, as well as his fear of the nature of their relationship being exposed, as she is underage. When he gives her a ring that belongs to his mother, the truth comes out and the girls' holiday is swiftly brought to an end.

   "Fat Girl" boasts a script and direction of high caliber. Breillat's camera reveals a keen eye for detail, frequently capturing the leads in close-up, and her authentic dialogue displays the assorted anxieties and the alternating solidarity and rivalry that exists between the sisters: Elena slaps Anaïs one minute and holds her hair back while she vomits the next; berates her for eating at one point, then helps feed her later. Both sisters give an unusually eloquent and mature analysis of their relationship. Notable in particular for the lengthy scene in which Elena gives herself to Fernando, and for a harrowing and violent conclusion that puts the whole summer into perspective, "Fat Girl" is a frank and startling feature that is hard to stomach but harder still to forget. Starring Anaïs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Arsinée Khanjian and Libero de Rienzo. Directed and written by Catherine Breillat. Produced by Jean-François Lepetit. A Cowboy release. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 86 min

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