Directed by: Rebecca Zlotowski

Written by: Rebecca Zlotowski & Gaëlle Macé

Starring: Léa Seydouxm, Anaïs Demoustier, Agathe Schlenker, Johan Libéreau, Guillaume Gouix

Rating: [3/5]

Even if they hate to admit it, teenagers need their parents at that age more than ever and nothing cements it more than when they’re gone. Something the teen in this film comes to realize after a few nights of rowdiness out on the town. 

With a recently deceased mother and a father away from the country on business, Prudence (Léa Seydoux) meets a rebellious girl and has the opportunity to hang out with some bikers she’s heard about. This provides a new energy in her life, as she tries to garner the affections of the guys. 

Belle Épine has such a rustic style with its visuals, which allows it to feel realistic and grounded with its storytelling. Its focus on the character of Prudence shows a camera that does not condemn or encourage the actions of the protagonist, but instead simply follows her. It allows her to make decisions that will impact her development. If anything, the decisions she makes will help her learn about what she values in life, which most teenagers must endure. Without any of the parental guidance to apply any restrictions, she has no resistance to hanging out with people that her father would assuredly not allow. 

Prudence’s journey ultimately becomes one of connection and a yearning she has to feel affection from others. She does that initially with Marilyne (Agathe Schlencker) and then with the motorcycle crew. No one else provides her with what she wants so he resorts to other means to attain it. This yearning comes from the loss of her mother, which evidently becomes more profound as the film progresses. It shows that the passing of her mother had a larger impact than the film let on near the beginning. This initial wall Prudence puts up serves as a protection and while she may appear closed off, her true nature reveals itself. 

Having the name of Prudence almost seems like a juxtaposition based on the definition of the word and her actions in the story. Everything she does to blend in with this motorcycle crew feels like it won’t end well for her. She makes hasty decisions and pushes away any real support systems that exist in her life. We never see a Prudence with actions that match her name because we only see her after the passing of her mother. It’s evident as we get to the conclusion of the story that her current behavior does not reflect who she has always been. 

The film’s runtime is short and the pacing is crisp to match it. The narrative manages to make an emotional punch with its limited time. Something that did not land as well as it could have but still delivered on what has been at the core of this character. It gives Léa Seydoux a good character to work with, as she brings forth Prudence, who happens to only make bad decisions without the parental guidance around her. 

Even with it feeling slight, Belle Épine serves as a good entry point into the films of Rebecca Zlotowski, as with this feature she tells a concise and precise story about the character of Prudence. She carries the theme of the film to its poignant conclusion with how it explains nearly everything that occurred without showing much. I look forward to experiencing more of her work.

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