A seeking migrant in France

Mother Rose, out A little brotheris just as free-spirited as the main character from Young woman, de eerste film van regisseur Léonor Serraille from 2017. Rose is also a young woman, they are not that different in age, but her life and that of Paula, a model and muse who fights her way out of a toxic relationship, are very different.

Paula wanders through Montparnasse, Rose finds a room with relatives in one of those concrete Parisian banlieus. Where Paula was a forerunner of typical millennials like Julie from The Worst Person in the World or sign out Sick of Myself, Rose already had four children when she came to France from Ivory Coast in the late 1980s. She left two with relatives, she takes the half-brothers Ernest and Jean with her. They are women from different backgrounds, but with the same decisiveness.

You could say Serraille Young woman based on her own life and A little brother to that of her mother-in-law. In interviews she said that when she became a mother herself and started the inevitable mirroring and reflecting – about what parenting is, and what a concept like family means – she felt a strong need to film her partner’s life story. He came to France from Ivory Coast as a child. He reportedly gave her all the freedom, but did not want to participate in the film. All the more special that this intimate integration story feels like a biography. This is a film that does not tell, but makes you experience.

A little brother premiered in Cannes last year. On paper it is a cleverly constructed film. In practice it is unstoppable stream of consciousness spanning a few decades and alternately taking the perspectives of mother and sons. Twenty years pass in less than two hours. We see mother Rose mature as she works, flirts, has lovers and enters into a relationship with a man for whom she moves to Rouen. There we pick up the thread again and see the lively woman as an absent mother. Everyone takes care of everyone else, but the children take care of her and each other most of all.


In a casual way, director Serraille weaves the French classical poetry the boys learn at school through the Ivorian music they listen to at home. She stays close to her characters with her camera, looking for a subjective way of storytelling that does not follow a plot, but emotions. The story of the eldest brother Ernest is the most pronounced in this. He finds that his high school grades will never be enough to be accepted in French society. When he has finally found work as a philosophy teacher, he is still arrested by the police for no reason.

At that moment you think back to an earlier scene in the film, in which a young Rose and her colleagues are invited by the owner of the hotel where they work for a hunting party annex staff party on an estate. It quickly degenerates into a bacchanal, the remains of which speak for themselves the next morning as grim colonial still lifes: the white man surrounded by colored women in his bed, a deer and a few partridges between the crystal champagne glasses on the grand piano. When you see Ernest experience similar problems years later, you wonder: what has actually changed in France since Rose arrived there in the 1980s?

The migration background of Rose and her children is constantly present, but A little brother is not an explicitly socially engaged film. Every now and then a short news report refers to the increasingly less tolerant migration political situation in France. But Serraille never seems to be concerned with institutional injustice, rather with the small forms of displacement, class injustice and micro-racism that people with a migrant background experience every day. Her film is a shadow history of twenty years of migration in France, in which Jean-Marie Le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Front gained more and more foothold.

#seeking #migrant #France
2023-05-30 13:34:48