by Fabien Lemercier
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: Romain Laguna directs a promising first feature film, a coming of age story filled with atmospheric charm
Wind, old trees, rocks, welcoming water at the bottom of a gorge, animals, the land of the vine, and a sky streaked with a luminous glow that disappears into mountain valleys. It’s in the heart of an impressive natural landscape – still intensely wild and just a stone’s throw away from an urban world filled with contemporary issues – that the young French filmmaker Romain Laguna has chosen to set his promising first feature film, Meteorites [+see also:
film profile], unveiled in the New Directors competition at the 66th San Sebastian Film Festival. The film immerses us in Hérault, Occitania, in the wake of its teenage protagonist and all the immediacy, hesitation and love that characterises coming of age, with a fair amount of originality thanks to its commentary on social issues and its bizarre astrophysics-themed seductive strangeness.
Nina (the wonderful Zéa Duprezis), 16, has dropped out of school and lives in the wilderness with her very absent mother. Alex, her best friend (Nathan Le Graciet), a winemaker's son, is soon to join the army. Every day, the pretty girl (with a birthmark near her eye) – who likes nothing more than to walk through nature and feed the animals – runs to catch the bus, and then the train, transporting us to a museum about dinosaurs and the evolution of life on Earth, where she works as a receptionist. There, Nina meets Morad (Billal Agab), the brother of her colleague Djamila (Oumaima Lyamouri), an attractive 19-year-old delinquent. Despite various warnings (he's married, "just wait, you’ll come running back to me saying "he left me, he deceived me", "you hang out with Arabs, now?"), Nina is propelled into an adventure that feels all the more passionate due to the significance she attributes to it: "Just before we met, I saw a meteorite in the sky. It crashed behind the mountain. It was a sign." Intimate turmoil and emotions inevitably collide, the shockwaves of which will be felt in every corner of the young woman's life...
Progressing along a very simple narrative thread (a screenplay written by the director with Salvatore Lista), Meteorites succeeds in adopting an original angle as it approaches a subject matter that has already been tackled countless times in cinema, thanks to its atmospheric and sensory infusion, whose captivating character (accentuated by Maxence Dussère’s musicand pretty almost dreamlife shots) contrasts with crude realism. Filming his young heroine as if she were a landscape in motion, Romain Laguna immerses himself in the moment without dwelling on the psychological or the ins and outs. An approach that ends up reaching its limits in terms of minimalist intrigue, but which allows the filmmaker to demonstrate a very personal sense of detail and ambiance, a testament to the director’s potential, whose next steps will undoubtedly be closely followed.
(Translated from French)
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