french films > Little Jerusalem

Little Jerusalem

Little Jerusalem

cast: Fanny Valette, Elsa Zylberstein, Bruno Todeschini

year: 2005

colour: yes

certificate:

director: Karin Albou

runtime: 96

Religion, philosophy and romantic love all vie for the heart and mind of a smart, serious teenage girl in this skilfully balanced debut feature from writer-director Karin Albou. Set in the suburban Paris neighbourhood of Sarcelles, known as 'Little Jerusalem' due to its large Jewish population, the film focuses on 18-year-old student Laura (Fanny Valette) as she tries to reconcile all the conflicting influences and feelings to which study and experience have introduced her. Living with her extended family - which includes widowed mother (Sonia Tahar), sister (Elsa Zylberstein) and brother-in-law (Bruno Todeschini) - means she's unable to escape her Orthodox upbringing, although her own immersion in Western philosophy has helped her form a strong personal view of the world. Romance is the one thing she's keen to avoid, although no amount of study and self-discipline can offer foolproof protection in that department. On paper the film's build-up of complications and contradictions sounds almost like an over-deliberate formula, but Albou ensures that nothing is clear-cut and that her characters' situations are fully explored. An overall sensitive touch doesn't preclude some really penetrating observations, while the film's considerable charm is hard-earned rather than just surface gloss.

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