French Film Review: Adolescentes, Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz

French Film Review: Adolescentes, Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz

Five years in the making, this documentary follows teenagers Emma and Anaïs from the age of 13 to 18 and charts their life in Brive-la-Gaillarde in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Despite being best friends, and largely inseparable, the pair have very different lives and come from markedly different social backgrounds, with Emma being from a more affluent family, full of drive and ambition, and Anaïs, from a poorer background, struggling at times with the challenges the world throws at her.

It was filmed for 24 days each year, resulting in an astonishing 500 hours of footage, before being edited down to a more respectable 2h 16m. Beautifully filmed, it explores the difficulties of teenage years and the importance of education as the key to the girls’ future lives.

Cleverly, some of the most significant parts of their teens’ lives are skipped over, told only in the aftermath, which keeps the film from becoming staid or predictable. In the background are events from the world stage, such as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Through the girls’ own, personal stories, we are given a portrait of the changing face of France in the 2010s.

As well as winning Best Documentary at the 2021 Césars, it was awarded the Grand Prize at My French Film Festival earlier this year. The judges described the film as “a deeply humanistic, accurate, funny and sometimes cruel portrait of two young women from a small town”. They added: “The film is conducted by a very sensitive and delicate camera that magnifies the extreme awareness of the director’s reality. Sébastien Lifshitz constantly finds the right distance from his subject, pushing the boundaries between documentary and fiction.”

By the time the girls turn 18 and reach their long-awaited adulthood, you find yourself wondering what the future holds for them and whether their friendship will endure. Enchanting and fascinating, it does exactly what a good documentary should do – it gives you plenty to think about.

Director: Sébastien Lifshitz

From France Today Magazine

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  • Barclay Lawrence
    2021-06-09 20:40:55
    Barclay Lawrence
    That's an interesting review, but I can find no way of being able to watch the film. In the UK is it available on dvd or Netflix or similar? If so, I would be grateful for a link to follow. Might I suggest that when reviewing a French film that you put details at the end of the review about how one can get to see it? Thanks.