Une Nouvelle Amie (The New Girlfriend) is a film by French director François Ozon. It is utterly sweet and charming throughout. The film is at once very distinctly French and also approachable enough that I believe even viewers completely unacustomed to French film will be able to enjoy and appreciate it without any trouble.
I say the film is very French because of the skillful way it deals with the subject of sexuality. In American film, broadly speaking, any depiction of sexuality must either be erotic, dirty (i.e. shameful), or funny. Une Nouvelle Amie, on the other hand, presents its characters with honesty and maturity, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions without the film itself judging any of the characters or their actions one way or the other. The film allows its characters to be complex individuals struggling with new and confusing emotions – in other words, human – without turning them into an object lesson for the viewer.
Part of the joy of the film is the viewer following the journey of the protagonist, Claire. I do not want to spoil that experience for anyone by giving too much away here, and allowing the viewer any piece of information Claire does not yet posess. Do not, however, mistake my brevity for ambivalence. This is a film as many Americans as possible should see, precisely because we are (unfortunately) not likely to create a comparable film ourselves for years to come.
Une Nouvelle Amie explores the complexity of grief, love, loss, self-acceptance, and the way a pivitol event in our lives can profoundly shape the person we are to become. It shows how sometimes grief can peel away the walls we’ve built around ourselves, bringing what was once hidden into the light. How the promises we make to those we love are also promises to ourselves, too.
The film deals sensitively with a subject I do not believe American culture as a whole is yet able to treat so lovingly. I hope that American viewers of this film will learn a new type of empathy if being presented with the subject matter for the first time or perhaps just in a new way. The film allows its characters to be messy, conflicted, and make mistakes while still allowing love to emerge triumphant. The film is a testament to love, and how sometimes our deepest secrets are what another might treasure about us the most.
I will say I am not including the trailer in this review purposefully. Having watched both the trailer and the film, I do not think the former paints an accurate picture of what the latter will be like. It is almost as if the person creating the trailer tried to make the film more appealing to an American narrative sensibility, but in the process the trailer loses all sense of the quality of the film itself. So in this case, just trust me and take my word for it.
Une Nouvelle Amie is the centerpiece film of AGLIFF, screening Saturday, September 12 at 7:20pm. I would encourage everyone who can to see it. You will not be disappointed.
This review was originally published by The Horn on 09/12/2015.