Just About Love? (Et Toi, T'es Sur Qui?) Review
Having worked on set on many of her father’s films, it was perhaps inevitable that Lola Doillon’s first feature would, like many of Jacques Doillon’s films (Ponette, Trop Peu D’Amour, Petits Frères) be set in the world of childhood and adolescence. The idea to look at the lives of a group of 15 year olds as they embark on their first sexual experiences came however from her own observations while working with youths in her short film Majorettes. Et Toi, T’es Sur Qui? is the 32 year-old director’s response to understanding a universal experience that is not new in French cinema, but has changed considerably in the years since Pialat’s 1983 benchmark À Nos Amours.
“If you have sex too soon you’re a total slut, too late and you’re a complete loser”, observed Doillon recently in an interview for the French film magazine Première, and it’s this delicate balance that two young 15 year-old girls Julie (Christa Theret), a goth known to her friends as Batman, and Élodie (Lucie Desclozeaux) have to negotiate with all their lack of experience as they plan on how to lose their virginity in the four days before the summer holidays commence.
As a reflection of modern teenage attitudes towards sexuality, Et Toi, T’es Sur Qui? is fascinating viewing. From the opening long tracking shot where two 15 year-old girls make their way to school, Doillon almost completely enters into their world, their rituals, their language and behaviour. It falls into the rhythm of their lives and their particularly modern means of communication – SMS, voicemails, MSN, e-mail – which they handle with a comfortable confidence. The journey to adulthood they are about to embark upon however requires a very different form of communication and it’s a language they have yet to master. Inevitably mistakes are made, signals are misread, intentions are misunderstood and complications arise. Élodie would love her first time to be with the coolest guy in the school, but he is showing no interest in her, and when Julie manages to lose her virginity almost immediately to one of the boys in their group, the pressure to sleep with anyone leads her to make compromises.
Doillon strikes that balance well between the outward self-assurance of the youths who act like they know it all and the embarrassment and awkwardness that having sex for the first time involves, neither exploiting her actors nor making them appear more worldly wise than they would be, but taking advice from the actors themselves on how they would themselves behave in such circumstances.
To the outside viewer, the consequences that Julie, Élodie and their friends have to deal with are slight - small-scale emotional entanglements, petty rivalries and falling-outs with each other – but they are entirely accurate and realistic to the concerns of this age-group, enclosed as they are in their own little world and prone to blowing such matters out of all proportion. Apart from a couple of teachers at the school where the children are learning basic skills for the handling of meat and fish, there are no adults present at all in the film to present an outside perspective. With the lack of any real dramatic contrivance in the storyline then, the principal attraction for the viewer to all these teen dramas is in enjoying the assuredness with which director Lola Doillon handles the material and the universally note-perfect performances from a talented cast of unknown and first-time actors.