This is an engaging film that is well worth sticking with despite its unusual real-time filming style. Etienne is a young French boy who is given a digital camera. He decides to film a year in his life. The premise reminded me of studying Christopher Isherwood’s novel “I Am a Camera”, discussing the anonymity of seeing life through a camera. It seemed like a good theory for Isherwood, but this film blows it out of the water. We almost seem to know what Etienne is thinking by seeing what he chooses to focus his camera upon. The film is so subtle that if you weren’t told this was a gay film, I’m fairly sure you wouldn’t get it until the last few frames. Sure, Etienne has an obsession for filming his geography teacher who becomes his mother’s boyfriend. But it could be for that reason—Etienne adores his mother—that he’s filming Laurent. Likewise, his almost prurient filming of his very handsome best friend could be entirely innocent. Only when you know what you are seeing—the gradual emergence of a boy’s sexuality—do you pick up on all these clues (I particularly liked the sequences of filming dock workers and firemen!).
The film seems to draw you into Etienne’s life entirely. I forgot I was watching actors because it’s so naturalistic.
I do feel that the end was slightly rushed, given the build up to it, but I still recommend this film as an unusual piece of filmmaking. Probably not one to invite friends around for a good movie night though.
This film moves with glacial slowness. What’s the point, I wondered while I waited for something to happen? But I persevered largely because of an amazing performance from first-time actor Jimmy Tavares as a schoolboy and competitive ice-skater, from Rouen, Normandy.
The premise of the film is that it’s the video diary of a contemporary teenager. So the whole thing is shot on camcorder, which makes it very realistic, though some sequences made me seasick. At times, too, it’s uncomfortable viewing because the film is so intimate I felt like a voyeur..
The movie is nothing like the upbeat trailer that made me watch. It’s very French, with ordinary characters going about their daily lives…home, work, school and R & R.
Obviously Etienne’s family & friends are aware of the camera’s intrusion and act accordingly. Initial nervousness, then a bit of showing off, followed by resentment and anger: best friend Ludo and mother Caroline find life under constant observation gets on their nerves. I could sympathise.
There are nice touches like deliberate mess-ups in the filming when the camera gets knocked over and so on, adding to the realism of the movie. Etienne’s delight in hunky stud Ludo’s sex life shows he’s an ordinary teenager. He becomes obsessed with a schoolteacher, following him with the camera. He shoots locker room scenes with fellow skaters. In the privacy of his room he focuses on his own naked body.
The film is about sexual awakening, the beginning of desire, but Etienne doesn’t know what it is he feels. Something is changing in his life. Lonely and longing, he struggles to understand desire he cannot articulate except through film because he doesn’t have the words. He likes people and wants to be loved not just for sex.
Etienne is a sensitive, intelligent boy. His concern for family and awareness of wider considerations contrasts with Ludo’s selfish pursuit of pleasure. Vague undercurrents add to tension that builds slowly. Etienne accompanies Caroline to the cemetery where he films gravestones: His stepfather died but we’re never told why. We hear about a boy who fell over a nearby cliff, possible suicide, so when Etienne starts filming near the edge it’s clearly not a good sign. When Etienne finally dares to ask Ludo if a boy can possibly love another, his rampantly hetero buddy is distinctly hostile.
Maybe because I watched this film as a break from the epic themes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was receptive to its quiet simplicity, a coming of age story with an authentic feel to it. It’s unclear why Etienne decides to film those around him, but revealing that his camera tells more about him than his subjects.
Sadly the film ended just when it began to get really interesting. You’ll have to watch and see whether Etienne succeeds in love with the same success as his ice-skating prowess. Etienne is sweet & cute and Ludo very nice eye candy, but there’s no sex and only fleeting discrete nudity. Worth a look if you’re in the mood.