Amanda: A quietly moving French drama
Matthew Turner | On 25, Dec 2019Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Mikhaël Hers
Cast: Vincent Lacoste, Isaure Multrier, Stacy Martin, Ophélia Kolb
Watch Amanda online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
Co-written and directed by Mikhaël Hers, this quietly moving French drama stars Vincent Lacoste as David, a laid-back Parisian 20-something who’s devoted to his older sister Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb) and his seven-year-old niece Amanda (cherubic newcomer Isaure Multrier). Although he holds down two jobs – a tenant liaison for his vaguely dodgy landlord and a tree-trimmer for the parks department – his life isn’t really going anywhere, but things look up when he falls for new tenant Lena (Stacy Martin) and they begin a relationship.
However, David’s life is suddenly turned upside down when Lena is injured and Sandrine is killed in a terrorist incident in a local park (a clear parallel to similar real-life incidents in the city, which were an inspiration for the film). With Amanda orphaned, David is forced to assume adult responsibility as her guardian, and they help each other navigate their grief and loss. At the same time, David tries to cling onto his relationship with Lena, whose own trauma has caused her to move far away.
Vincent Lacoste is superb as David – with his boyish, open face, he’s perfectly convincing as a young man who suddenly has to go from being fun-uncle-slash-little brother to something much more demanding. Similarly, Multrier is remarkably naturalistic as Amanda, seeming like a believably normal, bewildered seven-year-old, as opposed to the precocious / cutesy / wise-beyond-their-years pre-teens you can often find in American movies.
Lacoste and Multrier’s touching relationship forms the emotional heart of the movie, but there’s also strong support from Stacey Martin, who generates her own chemistry with Lacoste and has a moving journey of her own. In addition, Kolb (a recurring character in Netflix’s Call My Agent!) is lively and charming as Sandrine (ensuring that her loss hits hard), and there are solid turns from Marianne Basler (as David’s aunt) and from Greta Scacchi as his estranged mother, who now lives in London.
Throughout the film, Hers’ direction is nicely understated, not least in the scene where David – who’s running late – arrives at the scene of devastation in the park (the incident itself takes place off screen), the sequence all the more effective for its sense of numbed, low-key observation.
Hers’ script, co-written with Maud Ameline, is filled with heartbreaking moments and quiet, earnest exchanges, as well as several lovely little details, such as the way David gives a key to Lena in the opposite apartment. It builds to a genuinely moving climax, while wringing a surprising amount of emotion out of the line “Elvis has left ze building”.
Amanda is now available in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.