French movie icon Catherine Deneuve gets behind the wheel in Elle S’en Va, a road movie a la française by actor-director Emmanuelle Bercot, which starts out in classic fashion as a journey offering a new perspective on everyday life before sharply changing course.
Bettie (Deneuve) is a sixty-something restaurant owner living with her mother in a sleepy town in Brittany. Her life revolves around taking orders and serving clients until she learns she has been dumped by her lover for a much younger woman. In the middle of a lunchtime sitting, she leaves the restaurant, gets into her car and starts to drive. Cue a range of encounters with characters way out of Bettie’s comfort zone. A call from her estranged daughter Muriel, played by French folk-singer Camille, brings Bettie back down to earth. She is asked to take her grandson Charly to stay with his paternal grandfather for the summer vacation. Charly, played by Bercot’s real life son, Nemo Schiffer, forces Bettie out of her introspective mood and the movie kicks into a new register.
With this relationship Bercot returns to familiar territory, exploring the conflicts between adults and children but has nothing new apart from saying that adults and children have a lot to learn from each other.
In sharp contrast to the realistic, almost documentary feel to the first half, the second half of Elle S’en Va gradually moves towards a clichéd, contrived and ultimately unsatisfying ‘happy ending’. As Bettie, Deneuve is like an ocean liner moving through choppy seas – always in control, never courting real danger and never capturing our sympathy. The rest of the cast are wooden and unconvincing. By using several non-professional actors, Bercot has gambled on creating a natural feel which doesn’t quite pay off. Camille, for example, clearly does not have enough experience for such a pivotal role. Only the young Charly seems completely at ease. And Bercot has failed to pay attention to details which gnaw away at the films credibility. For example, Bettie travels for five days without once changing clothes and yet is always immaculately turned out! A firmer grip on the wheel would have made Elle S’en Va a more enjoyable ride. In French cinémas: 18/09/2013