Et Ta Soeur (Half Sister, Full Love) – Marion Vernoux

UnknownMarion Vernoux’s remake of Your Sister’s Sister is an almost exact replica of mumblecore director Lynn Shelton’s critically acclaimed 2012 independent hit. Vernoux has simply replaced Washington’s San Juan Islands with the wild and wooly Brittany coast.  It has the same scenes, chunks of the same dialogue and the same ending which begs the question does Vernoux’s Et Ta Soeur bring anything new to the table?  For audiences not familiar with the original, the ménage à trois between Pierrick, his best friend Tessa and her half-sister Marie pushes the boundaries of credibility . Being uptight about sexual promiscuity is very un-French which exposes a basic plot weakness in this Gallic remake. The success of Shelton’s original lay in part with the fine, low-key ensemble acting between the three leads Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemary  DeWitt. While individually Virginie Efira, Grégoire Ludig and Géraldine Nakache turn in competent, watchable performances. as a trio the magic is missing.
Pierrick (Ludig) is still in mouring for his brother who was killed in an road accident. His best friend Tessa (Nakache) suggests he spends some time alone in her father’s house on a remote island off the Brittany coast to reflect on where his life is heading. But when he arrives at the house, he finds Tessa’s half-sister Marie (Efira) is also taking time out to recover from a breakup with her girlfriend.  The two spend a drunken evening together and when Tessa unexpectedly arrives at the house the next day, the three adults find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
French remakes of American films are quite rare. The most notable example in recent times is Jacques Audiard’s 2005 The Beat my Heart Skipped which was a remake of  James Toback’s 1978 films Fingers.  Interestingly this is the second of Shelton’s film to have caught the attention of a French director. Yvan Attal’s 2012 Do Not Disturb is a remake of Shelton’s award-winning Humpday. But it’s difficult to see what attracts French directors to Shelton’s films which are off beat and quintessentially American in style.  Vernoux’s choice of actors is also a surprise. Of late both Belgian-born Efira and Nakache have found a home in lightweight romantic comedies. Efira scored a hit opposite Pierre Niney in 2005’s 20 Ans d’écart but has had less success with films like Caprice and the recent Une Famille à Louer.  Nakache hit box-office gold in 2010 with Tout ce qui Brille which she directed and in which she co-starred with Leila Bekhti. Nothing since then has come close. Ludig also has a background in comedy. He is best known for the hit TV sketch show Le Palmashow, which kicked off on You Tube before being picked up by the D8 TV channel.
Although there is a vein of comedy running through Et Ta Soeur, there is so much else to explore – loss, sexuality, friendship. But these issues are sidelined to highlight the farcical situation between the libidinous trio. Et Ta Soeur unfortunately is the polar opposite of the American original – flat and uninspired.

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