Review by Michael D Hollick
Aurore is a funny and touching French film that defies Hollywood stereotypes and serves up a rousing celebration of femininity and ageing. That’s not to say that this film is a manifesto or a critique, but rather Aurore is very conscious of itself as director Blandine Lenoir strives to capture something that the (Western) world has (more or less) ignored. Lenoir artistically insists on filling her film with characters and scenarios that, are skilfully crafted and familiar. As a result, the film is wholly relatable, and achieves its main goal: to portray a middle-aged woman who is a) not over the hill, b) not completely bonkers and c) in fact, someone who has a whole lot of life to live yet.
The film follows the title character (Agnes Jaoui), as she negotiates the many changes that have recently started occurring. First, there is her job, where the arrival of a new owner leads to a break from the way things are usually done. Aurore is told she will now be called “Samantha”, as this is sexier than her real name, and that she, as a middle-aged lady, is to be ‘rested’ behind the bar, while the younger women walk the floors and return to her, just as bees return to their Queen Bee.
Then there are Aurore’s two daughters, both of whose lives are becoming full of their own relationships and, for the oldest, an impending child of her own, throwing Aurore’s role as the maternal carer into flux. And finally, there is Aurore’s own body, which has begun its own changes. There’s the hot flushes, the brain fuzziness, a lack of sympathy from others, and no cure, as demonstrated in a scene that I foresee will have many women nodding along to, a man of medicine offering yet another woman no real help except for the rather curt offering “deal with it”.
So essentially Aurore has two choices: learn to swim by regaining control of her body and reinventing herself, or to sink, giving in to the weight of emotional and physiological burdens that surround her. However, to swim, Aurore must draw upon all the resources within her reach and re-negotiate relationships with her daughters, her ex-husband, and all those memories she carries around, in particular that of her first love, Totoche (Thibault de Montalembert), who has recently arrived back in town.
For the most part, the film achieves what it sets out to do. Lenoir expertly intertwines the events of Aurore’s life and her surrounding cast with a gracious lightness. By casting these scenes in neutral and every day settings, she draws out the absurdist humour that accompanies even the most serious of situations in life. As at the end of the day, (and the extends to us all), if we don’t laugh at life, then we may just cry.
MICHAEL D HOLLICK
Aurore runs at UWA Somerville until 14 Jan and ECU Joondalup Pines from 16 – 21 Jan. For tickets and more information, visit the Perth Festival website here.