“Other People’s Children” (“Les enfants de autres”)
Inspired by a personal experience, Rebecca Zlotowski’s “Other People’s Children” could be her finest work to date. The filmmaker creates a gentle and intelligent film about a childless forty-something woman whose motherly instincts are ignited through the daughter of her lover.
An absolutely superb Virginie Efira is Rachel, a French, mid-40’s teacher, who is confronted with the reality that the windows of fertility are beginning to close. Facing this truth causes her to wonder if she should try for motherhood before it is too late, a feeling begins to affect her relationships. Extremely well-written, Rachel is the type of female character that would feel right at home in the 1970s films of Paul Mazursky or Francois Truffaut.
Rachel has been quite content during her years without children and motherhood. Once she begins a serious relationship with caring divorced dad Ali (a tender Roschdy Zem), the desire to become a mother overcomes her, as her beau’s young daughter Leïla (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves) has completely captured her heart.
Zlotowski’s screenplay is something special. The filmmaker refuses to take the simple road, not wanting to insult her audience (or her well-drawn characters). By presenting Rachel and Leila’s mother Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) as antagonistic, would be to fall prey to the pitfalls of many American screenplays that don’t have faith in the drama within their characters.
The two women have a special and respectful rapport, as Rachel does with her younger sister Louana (Yamée Couture), whose own pregnancy makes her jealous.
Both Alice and Louana are dealing with their own issues, each one representing life and death. Rachel’s life and caring heart become entwined with the two women, giving even more interesting layers to the character.
As Rachel begins to flirt with torpedoing her own happiness, we feel for this woman who, while loved by Ali and his daughter, begins to see herself as an outsider. For Rachel, it feels as if the whole world is having beautiful children and starting families while she watches from the sidelines.
Zlotowski’s filmmaking style is patient and studied. The filmmaker gives her main character room to breathe, allowing Efira to better explore the internal motivations of Rachel.
Efira uses subtle movements and expressions to acknowledge the changes in Rachel. The audience can feel when her desires switch to something more tangible and witness her regret in moments where she defeats her true feelings. As Rachel, the actress is nothing short of perfect.
Rachel must decide what kind of emotional security will calm her mind. She becomes unsure about her place in Ali and Leïla’s lives and questions her relationship with a colleague. Finally, she wonders if she is capable to be a mother after all. Perhaps she should live vicariously through her sister and Ali. This could be her lot in life. Always the bridesmaid, never the mom.
“Other People’s Children” is a sensitive modern tale of a woman reaching a crossroads she hadn’t realized was coming.
Rebecca Zlotowski’s excellent film is one of maturity and class.
Other People’s Children
Written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski
Starring Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Chiara Mastroianni
NR, 103 Minutes, Les Films Velvet/Canal+