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À Ma Soeur!
cast: Anaïs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero De Rienzo, Romain Goupil, and Arsinée Khanjian

director: Catherine Breillat

82 minutes (18) 2001 widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region '0' retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Ellen Cheshire
À Ma Soeur! (aka: Fat Girl) is an uncomfortable film to watch, but it is an intelligent and emotionally draining film from Catherine Breillat, director of the critically acclaimed Romance.

The middle class Pingot family are holidaying by the coast. The father, (Romain Goupil) spends most if his time conducting business calls on his mobile phone, the mother (Arsinee Khanjian) sunbathing and shopping, and so they do not notice that their two daughters, Anais (Anais Reboux) and Elena (Roxanne Mesquida), are becoming increasingly distant from them.

A frequent topic of conversation between the two sisters is how they plan in losing their virginity. Anais wants it to be a wonderful experience with the man she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with. Elena, far more practical, wants it to be with someone she doesn't care about, so when the inevitable happens and he leaves, she won't be too upset! Little do they realise that this is the summer holiday when their theories will be put to the test.

Elena is a beautiful 15-year-old on the verge of womanhood; her younger sister Anais is overweight and bored. Forced to spend all their time together their love/ hate relationship is tested to its limits, especially when Elena attracts the attention of an older Italian student, Fernando (Libero De Rienzo).

Anais is the observer; she sees what is going on around her, and despite being two years younger than Elena has a far better grasp on reality than her sister. She can see through Fernando's protestations of love, and smooth talking Italian charm, much of which she is forced witness when Elena sneaks Fernando into their shared room after dark.

Breillat has taken the standard holiday romance genre and twisted into something far more meaningful - an examination of teenage female sexuality. Fernando's seduction of Elena is a painful 25-minute sequence where he convinces the naive Elena that the acts she allows him to carry out are "demonstrations of love." At the scene's (and his) climax the camera is trained not on the lovers but on the sobbing face of her Anais who has to endure this seduction from across the room.

This is superbly crafted film in three acts. The editing is sharp and at 82 minutes tells a chilling story efficiently and competently. The first act is the burgeoning romance, the middle section the 'seduction', and the film's final section is her family's discovery and flight back to Paris where the film turns into a gothic horror on the motorways of France, leading to a final horror that so shocked the BBFC that they forced Breillet to cut one minute and 28 seconds from it.

The performances from the two young actresses Anais Reboux and Roxanne Mesquida are excellent and Breillet has produced another challenging and provocative film.

There are no significant extras on the DVD release.