SXSW 2019 – Review: ALICE Is A Touching Film About Desperation

FIRST IMPRESSION

Alice probably won't connect with everyone, but for those with whom the film does connect, it will be a touching and effective drama.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Alice is a new French dramedy written and directed by Josephine Mackerras. The film follows a woman named Alice who, after her husband suddenly leaves, is left to find a way to care for her child and save her apartment which is about to enter foreclosure, turning to the world of high-end escorts to make some quick money. It debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Award in the Narrative Feature Competition.

The story of this movie is definitely very layered and nuanced, which is likely the reason why it won the festival’s top award. On one level, the film is about motherhood and what a mother would sacrifice for the good of her child. However, the movie is also about womanhood and sexuality and really explores the relationship between these two ideas. The film is often not easy to watch, but it will provoke thought and conversation.

The story arc as a whole is somewhat predictable, but it is more a means to deliver a message and present a character than anything, and it is extremely effective at doing that. You will always be able to see four or five steps ahead of the movie, but as long as you are invested in the story emotionally, you will likely be able to get past the formulaic nature of the plot.

The protagonist is definitely very compelling because she is quite rounded and has a compelling arc. One of the main reasons that the film works so well is that you care about the character and want her to succeed even though the lifestyle she lives may not be the most sympathetic or likable. On the other hand, the supporting characters are somewhat underdeveloped, especially Alice’s friend who is also an escort. These relationships could have been explored more to develop the protagonist even further.

There are also a few moments in which the movie’s pacing slows down significantly. There is a lot of conflict in the beginning and the end, but the middle of the film is made up of interactions that Alice has with her clients. These aren’t uninteresting, but many of them feel like they are repeating the same message and could have been substituted for more character-driven moments.

That being said, the actors are really what make this moive stand out. Emilie Piponnier is absolutely wonderful in her lead role. She does a phenomenal job of adding emotion to the film on top of the emotion that was already infused into the character. Hopefully she will continue to get more work as a lead in the future. Martin Swabey and Chloé Boreham are also great in their supporting roles.

In technical terms, the movie is also very good. The cinematography is simple, but elegant, fitting with the tone of the film as a whole. The editing is also quite smooth and effective. That being said, the most impressive part of the movie’s execution is undoubtedly the score, which is absolutely beautiful and does a great job of setting the overall tone.

Overall, Alice was an impressive film. Although it is somewhat predictable, the movie still effectively delivers its messages and has a very compelling protagonist.

Alice debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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