Review: Simon’s Got A Gift
- Léo Karmann has opted for magical realism and a labyrinth of mirrors, further distorting multiple identities, in a simple yet astonishing first feature film
We could almost be forgiven for feeling blasé when we think about all the super-powers that have been portrayed thus far on the big screen, pumped up to steroid-popping levels by way of the barrage of special effects meted out by blockbusters. French cinema, for its part, has developed its own, subtle, approach towards tackling this type of super-hero genre; namely a modest realism along the lines of Vincent [+see also:
film profile] (2015) or the very recent work Blind Spot [+see also:
film profile], and it is this very route that Léo Karmann has chosen to go down with his first feature film, Simon’s Got A Gift, screened in the European Discoveries section of the 20th Arras Film Festival.
Simon (played as a child by Albert Geffrier and then at 20 years old by Benjamin Voisin) has a very specific gift: he can turn into other people, but only those he has touched. This child, abandoned at birth and resident in a children’s home for the past eight years, shares his secret, as if he’s revealing an innocent game, with Thomas (Simon Susset) and his sister Madeleine (Vicky Andren and later Camille Claris), who have him over to their house one weekend. The orphan thrives in the midst of a family (which he misses so badly), but tragedy strikes while they’re playing in the forest: Thomas falls into a ravine of unfathomable depth, and Simon, the only witness to the event, decides to take the place of the deceased.
The film then shoots forward a dozen or so years: people are celebrating Thomas’ 20th birthday and their thoughts suddenly go to Simon (to whom an empty grave has been dedicated in the cemetery) during a slide show. At this point, fake Thomas decides to turn back into Simon for a few hours so that he can enjoy a plate of fries (Thomas is allergic to them), but Madeleine (his real-fake sister) sees him, recognises him and goes in search of him, both in memory of the love she felt for Simon as a child and because death has always loomed over her, owing to the heart defect she lives with. The two youngsters soon become lovers, until the young woman finally uncovers Simon/Thomas’ double-dealing and insists that, at the very least, he reveal the place where the drama unfolded twelve years earlier, where the skeleton can be located. Once found, her parents believe they are burying Simon. But Madeleine knows the truth and will do everything she can to ensure the unthinkable is unveiled, which will obviously have consequences of its own…
Following an enigmatic prologue, and a first part centred around the children which struggles somewhat to find the right tone between fairy tale atmosphere and social realism, the film finds its feet, weaving a teenage love story into an increasingly thriller-like plot which sees the main character leaping from one identity to the next in a bid to shake off his pursuers. It’s a game of mirrors, expertly conducted and well played, where the plot (put together by the director, alongside Sabrina B. Karine, based on an original idea developed in league with Marie-Sophie Chambon), which at first seems simple, takes on far more subtle dimensions, whilst offering plenty of surprises. These changes in style make of Simon’s Got A Gift a film that’s accessible to all audiences and whose underlying themes (who are we, really? How far can we go in pretending to be someone else or in projecting ourselves into the lives of others? And what about blood ties?) offer multiple readings for those who are that way inclined. It’s a film which the youngest members of the audience will appreciate for what it really is: a great story about the highs and lows of wielding a super-power in the real world.
Simon’s Got A Gift is produced by Geko Films and co-produced by Proximus and Belga Productions. The film will be distributed in France by Jour2Fête, whilst international sales are entrusted to Pulsar Content.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.