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Elles
UKScreen Rating:

Elles – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Anne (Juliette Binoche) is a busy mother to two troublesome teenagers, a hassled wife of a high-powered and wealthy businessman and in her own right, a successful journalist for Elle magazine.
She grows increasingly detached from her everyday life as she becomes engrossed in her research for an article about desperate young women who turn to prostitution to make ends meet – and more.
She answers adverts, posted by women looking for bored, middle-aged husbands and grills them about how they fell into the lifestyle, how they go about it and how they feel about what they’re doing – curiously, she doesn’t ask them how, or even whether they hope to leave the game.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

There is much to admire here, from the performances to some of the observations raised during the interviews. The film is clearly made by people who understand this world. It’s sympathetic and shows these women – often shunned at the edges of society – as human beings who need love, just like anyone else.
But as a narrative tale, it leaves much to be desired. The fractured timeline weaves together interviews with two young women, against the backdrop of a typical day, in which Anne is trying to get the boys off to school and cook a meal for her husband’s boss.
The problem is that while we understand that the research is getting to her, the interviews we cut to are clearly flashbacks, so the extent to which her demeanour changes during that day seems unlikely.
When the stress eventually catches up with her at the dinner party, it is similarly unconvincing. We know she’s meant to be deeply affected by the stories she has encountered, but the way this manifests itself onscreen feels contrived.
This is a worthy film that doesn’t have the substance it thinks it does – it tackles a sensitive subject with gravitas, but although you get the impression that they think they’ve delivered all the answers, they’ve done little more than raise a few questions – and questions that anyone watching this film would have been asking already.

Opens 20 April 2012

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