Virginie Efira on screen in a “Kramer against Kramer” of mothers-in-law

How to find your place in front of “other people’s children” in a blended family? Very little addressed in the cinema, the question is at the center of a film by Rebecca Zlotowski, with Virginie Efira in majesty.

In theaters on Wednesday, this feature film tells the story of Rachel (Virginie Efira), a French teacher in her forties, childless, who falls in love with Ali (Roschdy Zem), dad of a little girl and recently divorce.

Originality of the film, it focuses on the mother-in-law of this blended family: how to love a child who will never really be his? How do you find your place in this new family? What bonds will survive in the event of a break?

“When you divorce in life, you can see + Kramer against Kramer +, it helps you”, told Rebecca Zlotowski at the Venice Film Festival in early September, in reference to this classic from the end of the 1970s, with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep.

“But, when you are a mother-in-law, you have no film to help you”, when these characters in the tales or the Disney are “often in the wickedness or the rivalry”.

“The origin of the film is this lack of representation of a very trivial, banal and familiar experience”, she continues, “a character who touches a lot of people, a mother-in-law or a handsome -father who loved a child and saw him come out of the equation at some point”.

The 42-year-old director (“Belle Épine”, “Une fille facile”) confides that she initially thought of adapting Romain Gary’s novel on male impotence (“Beyond this limit your ticket is no longer valid” ) before changing gear, to tell the story of a woman who also fears the decline in her fertility.

No coincidence: “the relationship with thwarted motherhood, the end of fertility, is a form of impotence… At a time when we talk so much about the power of women, we must also look at their impotence” , underlines the director.

– Topic “girl”? –

Alongside Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem portrays a modern father, far from virile standards, who takes care of his little girl, cooks, reads her stories…

“It took me four films to deconstruct myself a little personally and understand that a female subject was not a minor subject”, recognizes Rebecca Zlotowski, yet committed to these issues that have become central to the film industry.

“I made a film in a nuclear power plant (“Grand Central”), on a motorcycle circuit (“Belle Épine”), a president and attacks (the series “Les Sauvages”, with Roschdy Zem, already), with a lot of spectacular and situations where you had to send +heavy +. I had an almost phallic relationship with my subjects, while this subject (of motherhood), I was afraid to face it. I had a part of me who still considered that it was + girl +”.

The film is also an ode to Virginie Efira (“Police”, “Adieu les Cons”, “Benedetta”), whose career in auteur cinema is accelerating and who is also on the poster for “Revoir Paris” , on the attacks of November 2015.

The actress tells AFP that she was attracted to a character who made intimate chords vibrate more than ever: he is “never represented when it is in everyone’s life”, just like “this typical thing feminine of the relationship to motherhood, of the time we have”.

With this role, for which she notably thought of the female characters of Claude Sautet: “I had the impression of being able to make leaps in the intimate past”.

Without completely identifying herself, Virginie Efira recognized herself in certain respects in the character of Rachel: “a slight effacement, a lack of self-confidence which means that we accept everyone’s behavior by saying to ourselves + everyone has his reasons +, the smile as politeness, as modesty … These are areas that I frequented“, confides the actress.


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