The Movie Waffler New Release Review - OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN | The Movie Waffler


Other People's Children review
A woman's maternal instincts are aroused when she meets her lover's young daughter.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Rebecca Zlotowski

Starring: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Frederick Wiseman, Victor Lefebvre, Henri-Noël Tabary

Other People's Children poster

Writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski opens her fifth feature with an exhilarating sequence that introduces its protagonist, 40-year-old Rachel (Virginie Efira). Teaching French to a secondary school class before shooting across town to a service at a synagogue with her father and sister and eventually attending guitar lessons in a music store, all accompanied by propulsive piano jazz, Rachel is painted as the epitome of Parisian cool, almost a cliché of Gallic cinema. But Rachel's exciting life is soon revealed to be bittersweet. She's the eternal cool aunt who longs to be a mother.

Other People's Children review

Rachel's maternal instincts are aroused when her lover, Ali (Roschdy Zem), introduces her to Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves), the five-year-old daughter whose custody he shares with his ex-wife Alice (Chiara Mastroianni). A visit to her gynaecologist, played by the iconic American documentarian Frederick Wiseman, lets Rachel know in no uncertain terms that her biological clock is ticking, and if she wants to become a mother she better act fast.

While hoping to become pregnant, but keeping this wish a secret from Ali, Rachel begins to bond with Leila. It seems she might be accepting the idea that being a stepmother to Leila might be good enough, but the kid is confused by Rachel's presence. In one heartbreaking scene we watch as Rachel overhears Leila tell her father she doesn't want Rachel coming around and that she wants her mother to be with Ali once again.

Other People's Children review

The title also refers to Rachel's role as a teacher. Zlotowski takes a rather negative view of the French school system's willingness to discard troublesome students, with Rachel battling her school's desire to cast out one such pupil, Dylan (Victor Lefebvre), a wayward 16-year-old who seems to have a crush on Rachel, as does one of her fellow teachers (Henri-Noël Tabary).

Zlotowski has constructed a tacitly effective drama, its subtle rhythms dictated by the inability of adults to conduct loud arguments in the presence of children. There are some quietly devastating moments, like an elderly woman telling Rachel how Leila looks just like her, and a late moment when Rachel and Ali are forced to feign affection in front of the girl in the immediate aftermath of negotiating a breakup.

Other People's Children review

Efira, who has quickly become one of the stars of French cinema in the past few years, conveys Rachel's hurt with a palpable sadness that the viewer can pick up on even if those around her can't. Efira's movie star looks allow Rachel to present a front in the company of others, who likely see her the way we did in the opening segment, an aspirational woman about town who seems to have everything going for her. By the end of the film we're aware of her true, tragic situation, but a late encounter affords Rachel a crumb of comfort that we suspect might be kneaded into a loaf of hope.

Other People's Children
 is in UK/ROI cinemas and on VOD now.

2023 movie reviews