(director/writer: Rebecca Zlotowski; cinematographer: George Lechaptois; editor: Geraldine Mangenot; music: Robin Coudert/Gael Rakotondrabe; cast: Roschdy Zem (Ali Ben Atia), Virginie Efira (Rachel Friedman), Chiara Mastroianni (Alice), Callie Ferreira-Goncalves (Leila), Yamee Couture (Louana Friedman), Michel Zlotowski (Rachel’s Dad, Mr. Friedman), Victor Lefefebre (Dylan Leklou), Frederick Wiseman (Gynecologist); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Frederic Jouve/Marie Lecoq; Music Box Films; 2022-France-in French with English subtitles)

“Wonderfully well-observed and thoughtful relationship dramedy about motherly instincts.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The French filmmaker Rebecca Zlotowski  (“An Easy Girl”/”Planatarium”) is the writer-director of this wonderfully well-observed and thoughtful relationship dramedy about motherly instincts and the subject’s biological clock ticking dangerously close to when she can no longer have children, as warned by her gruff gynecologist (Frederick Wiseman, the noted American documentary filmmaker).

The active and zestful single 40-year-old Parisian high school teacher Rachel Friedman (Virginie Efira) has no children but would love to have a child. She is newly dating the divorced car designer Ali (Roschdy Zem), and becomes drawn to his 4-year-old daughter Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves), whom he shares parenting duties with his ex, Alice (Chiara Mastroianni).

The filmmaker shows Rachel away from Ali leading a busy life, as she hangs with colleagues, parties, takes guitar lessons, gets stoned and is good in the classroom. She also relates well to her Jewish family, hanging out with her younger sister Louana  (Yamée Couture) and on the Sabbath attends shul with her father (Michel Zlotowski), and regularly visits the grave of her mother, who died when she was a youngster.

We follow the lovers relationship as it continues for a few years and the developing strained relationship she has with Leila, as the film alters moods from a genial lightness to a heavier mood of concern about how things will work out. Putting on a happy face when her sis accidentally gets pregnant, all the while echoing the many concerns the contemporary single women have of aging.

It’s a well-accomplished and endearing relationship film, that keeps things real as it tells its modern-day story of an aging single woman searching for love, to have her own child and to endure being a stepmother to a child who pines for her real mom.

Efira’s low-key nuanced performance is marvelous, as she internally captures the private suffering of the film’s stall-worth and sympathetic heroine who has so much love to give.

It played at the Venice Film Festival.

In a film scene, a man and woman walk down a street,
          smiling. They each hold the hand of a child who is swinging
          between them by her arms.