At The Movies: Saint Omer
Saint Omer is a wonderful thought-provoking film. At the start, one woman is holding a baby at night time on the beach and another woman wakes from a dream. We soon learn that these two women are the main protagonists of the film and their stories become intertwined. The woman on the beach is Laurence Coly who we soon learn is on trial for abandoning her baby to die at high tide at the beach and is played by Guslagie Malanda. As someone accused of infanticide, Laurence is not a likeable character but as the film progresses you certainly learn her motivations and Guslagie portrays this complex character in an emotional, powerful and gut-wrenching way.
Kayije Kagame plays Rama who is a novelist who attends the trial to write a novel that incorporates Laurence Coly’s story with a modern-day adaption of Medea. Kayije is a striking presence and an incredible actor. Both women’s lives are paralleled in the film, a story of mothers and daughters. Both women have had a strained relationship with their mothers and Rama is pregnant and is concerned she could end up like Laurence. The director Alice Diop has gotten two incredible performances from Guslagie and Kayije. Both have the amazing ability to convey emotions with their eyes. Saint Omer is the director’s first film that was not a documentary and I look forward to seeing her and the two main actors’ films in the future.
I saw the film as part of the French Film Festival a month ago and was more than happy to see it again to review the film formally. It is an incredibly stylised film where the camera sometimes focuses on our main characters even though you hear others talking off-screen. The other actors in the film are brilliant and no one puts a foot wrong. Actor Aurélia Petit does a wonderful job with the closing court monologue. The music used for the film is striking as well. Grammy award-winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth had two songs from their phenomenal 2013 EP and the Christmas-themed Little Girl Blue from Nina Simone was used beautifully at the end of the film.
The movie is based on a real-life story from 2013 and the court case was filmed where the actual court case took place. The director Alice Diop attended the actual court case and has made this incredible gripping movie that touches on class, race, gender and culture after noticing in court that she and others in the courtroom were visibly affected. I highly recommend this film.
Movie Review By Richard De Pizzol