The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - LA MIF | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - LA MIF

la mif review
The lives of the residents of an all-girls care home.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Fred Bailiff

Starring: Claudia Grob, Anaïs Uldry, Kassia Da Costa, Joyce Esther Ndayisenga, Charlie Areddy, Amélie Tonsi, Amandine Golay, Sara Tulu

la mif poster

As an ex-social worker, Fred Baillif, the writer/director of La Mif (The Fam), brings a hard-won authenticity to his portrayal of a girls only children’s home. Although La Mif is not quite ‘direct cinema’, there is a documentary rawness to the film’s representation of the Swiss social system, a realism which is catalysed by Baillif’s use of non-professionals to play the roles of the care home workers and its residents. Its fractured glass narrative looks at a transgression within the home from several different points of view, allowing each of the characters and their various backstories status, and immersing us in the bleak, compromised world of this sort of social care.

la mif review

Nonetheless, regarding La Mif’s cool girl-gang poster and the graphic opening discussion of sex from its mid teen denizens, this jaded, unimaginative reviewer was positioning himself for a grimly ribald tableau in the style of Kids or similar (you know, those godawful films which exploit teen sexuality via a bogus hipster eye). This inclination was compounded when one of the girls, the 16 year old Audrey (Anaïs Uldry) is caught having sex with a 14 year old boy early in the film. Unlike the nihilistic portrayals of the TV show Euphoria, say, this incident is however not simply part and parcel of a wider incoming bricolage of teens behaving badly: the event is immediately taken seriously by the social workers and has far reaching consequences for all characters, along with the home itself. La Mif views its young protagonists as vulnerable children, not glamorised ravers. Reassuringly, Bailliff is a filmmaker whose care for and responsibilities towards these damaged teens is visible in every frame.

la mif review

As we see aspects of the event, a statutory rape, play out from different perspectives, our focal point is Lora (Claudia Grob), who is the manager of the home. Lora is a constant for both the girls and the audience, featuring prominently throughout each of the girl’s stories. Her demanding role is to balance care with authority, and La Mif soberly poses the sort of difficult questions which the care system must deal with every day: how far is Audrey culpable, what is the effect on the boy, in what ways can all parties move forward? (This system is the de facto place where the buck stops, after all).

When we are party to the board meetings that the workers have, Joseph Areddy’s camera is static and removed, soberly presenting the necessarily bureaucratic response to highly emotive situations. However, in a way which creates empathy with the residents of the home, when he films the teens the lens is intuitive. Here the camera whips and tilts, cutting closer and rapidly transitioning between conversations, creating an infectiously kinetic energy. The girls are filmed swimming, running, dancing - figures of burning adolescent excitements. In one instructive sequence we crosscut between a couple of girls stealing a homeless man’s trolley and running off with it for a laugh, while the management team of the home sit around a table discussing how best to administer care and discipline: it must be like herding cats.

la mif review

As certain quarters of mass entertainment cavalierly exploit the tribulations of teen life, and the complex mechanisms of social care are so often simplistically adapted within drama, with its striking verisimilitude, La Mif is an important film. At times, it can be a frustrating watch, with the plot circulating repeatedly back to the inciting incident. But this narrative approach in itself is mimetic of Lora’s Sisyphean role; the two steps forward, one step back challenges of developing troubled teens and dealing with their wider contexts. As the uncomfortably prolonged last shot suggests, there are no easy solutions and the future for these kids is anyone’s guess.

La Mif is in UK cinemas from February 25th.

2022 movie reviews