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IFI French Film Festival 2016 Review - THE STOPOVER

After serving a tour in Afghanistan, a French military unit decompresses in a Cypriot hotel.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin

Starring: Soko, Ariane Labed, Ginger Roman, Karim Leklou



The Coulins' film is at its strongest when focussing on Ariane Labed's Aurore. The rest of the film's characters are largely glorified background figures, making The Stopover's ultimate dramatic denouement a little difficult to swallow.



When a unit of the French military completes a an active tour of duty, its members are put up in a five-star hotel for three days before returning to France. Known as 'decompression', the idea behind this practice is that the soldiers get to work out some of their post-combat issues in a neutral setting rather than taking it home to their families. It seems like an idea that makes perfect sense, which makes The Stopover, a movie highly critical of the process, difficult to get onboard with.


Directed by a pair of sisters, Muriel and Delphine Coulin, and based on the latter's novel, the film mostly follows two female members of a unit decompressing in a lavish Cypriot hotel following combat in Afghanistan. Aurore (Ariane Labed) has an initially positive outlook on their unique vacation, while Marine (popstar Soko) is far more cynical.

For three days, the soldiers are forced to relive a failed operation that resulted in a handful of casualties. Donning a set of virtual reality goggles, they view a computer generated re-enactment of the ordeal, their former colleagues returning from the dead in animated form. Some of the soldiers are gung-ho about the experience, while others break down emotionally while reliving its horror.


At night, the squaddies unwind by getting drunk and chasing members of the opposite sex. Aurore and Marine hook up with a pair of local men in a manipulative sub-plot that's played for cheap tension, the film falsely leading us to believe the men have sinister intentions.

In its determination to critique what seems like a sensible process, The Stopover resorts to a jarringly melodramatic late twist, one which audience members with military experience will no doubt find offensive.


Since her impressive turn as the titular lead of 2014's Fidelio, Alice's Journey, Labed has had to make do with a slew of bit-parts, so her return to a leading role is welcomed here. The Coulins' film is at its strongest when focussing on Labed's Aurore in her moments of quiet contemplation, her troubled face betraying her tough exterior. Unfortunately, the rest of the film's characters are largely glorified background figures, making The Stopover's ultimate dramatic denouement a little difficult to swallow.





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