Margaux Hartmann (L’Etreinte) (15)         French Film Festival

Middle aged and recently widowed, Margaux (Emmanuelle Beart) moves to France from Germany to enrol in a Masters programme while house-sharing with her half-sister.

Although quiet and reserved, she is befriended by a group of her fellow students who coax her, in spite of her reluctance, to join them in a study group and in their social events, parties, late night swims, and provide an impetus for her first tentative steps back into the world as a single woman.

Her first steps are faltering to say the least – an attempted liaison with her lecturer (Tibo Vandenborre) finds her unable to give in to her desire, finding intimacy an overwhelming obstacle. A dating app proves unsatisfactory, pairing her with unsuitable partners, and when she does find one to meet for sex, he turns out to be married with a family.

Her one successful relationship is a platonic one, with gay classmate Aurelien (Vincent Dedienne), who becomes her confidante. Margaux, at 50, has in effect become the shy, awkward, teenager, living away from home and starting a new life at university.

Her one successful relationship is a platonic one, with gay classmate Aurelien (Vincent Dedienne), who becomes her confidante. Margaux, at 50, has in effect become the shy, awkward, teenager, living away from home and starting a new life at university.

Ludovic Bergery’s film is an impressive debut, maintaining an understated approach and resisting any temptation to hammer home the problems Margaux faces. Instead, he shows everything from her point of view and allows Beart to quietly and subtly portray Margaux’s lack of decisiveness and insecurities, which she does without ever letting us see her “acting”. The result of which is that Margaux Hartmann becomes the most sympathetic character I have seen on screen in a long, long time.

Jim Welsh

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