MUBI UK film review: The Park (Le Parc)
We’re going to the park!5
Mike Williams | On 10, Feb 2017
Director: Damien Manivel
Cast: Naomie Vogt-Roby, Maxime Bachellerie, Sobéré Sessouma
Watch Le Park online in the UK: MUBI UK
Le Parc is the quintessential French indie. An oddball, experimental coming-of-age film, it fuses drama, romance, and a sprinkling of unease and even the chill of horror.
This 71-minute film that’s set solely in – you’ve guessed it – a wide, open park is the location for two youngsters, Maxime and Naomie, to meet for a first date. However, the feel to their encounter is something altogether strange. Despite (allegedly) being an introduction, there’s a particularly awkward chemistry that follows the pair around, as if they share a history we don’t know about. During moments of seemingly frivolous interaction and inevitable first date small talk, the more sensual and sexual scenes come across as adolescently awkward and clumsy.
The two young lovers may appear spritely, as they play fight and chat and run around like, well, kids, but when things crank up a notch to a romantic level, their inexperience is evident to witness. It could very well be that director Damien Manivel fully intends to make these romantic exchanges as cringeworthy as possible, or that the actors simply aren’t up to much; it’s unclear which.
It’s only when the pair seem to be getting close – and hitting it off big time – that things swiftly change the course of direction. As Max sheeplishly wanders off home, Naomie is left sitting on the grass, alone, and forced to confront her feelings. What follows is something that can only be described as a reflective exercise followed by demonic possession of sorts, as she (poorly) attempts to wrestle with the strength of her emotional connection to Max and the possibility of rejection.
Despite the opening 20 or so minutes offering a jaunty day out in the park where new love is encouraged to blossom, the contrast of the following 45 and the intense final moments will leave you watching the clock and easily distracted from what’s floating around on-screen.
Le Parc seems to be a metaphor about youngsters coping with first loves and the emotional baggage that accompanies that. The entire spectrum of a long-term relationship is condensed into an hour of intense, contemplative, and very creepy storytelling – you’ll be left with a sense of confusion and bewilderment once the final, haunting credits role.
Le Parc is now currently available on UK VOD.