Amanda (France, 2018)

Struggling with life

Spoiler alerts!

Director, and co-writer Mikhaël Hers, has made an interesting film that considers bereavement, PTSD and a twentysomething’s life challenges from an unusual perspective. David (Vincent Lacoste) is the young man who, happily, has few responsibilities: he makes his living by acting as a landlord’s go-between and by pruning trees. He does have to collect his 7-year-old niece, Amanda (Isaure Multrier), from school occasionally and their relationship forms the narrative arc that ends, strangely, at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

David has been estranged from his mum (Greta Schacchi) from an early age and his sister, Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb), is a single parent. Clearly parenting is a key theme especially when the latter is killed in a terrorist attack; will David become Amanda’s guardian thus forcing him to take on responsibilities? It is the manner of the bereavement that offers the unusual perspective and it’s not entirely clear whether the film is investigating the trauma of such attacks or whether that is simply a catalyst for David’s life changing experience; I’m not sure the film knows. The attack, of which we only see the aftermath, is brilliantly staged by the way, clearly conveying the shock of finding a post-attack scene, especially when loved ones are involved. Would it have made any different if Sandrine had been killed in, say, a hit-and-run by a drunken driver? The only other time the realpolitik intrudes is when a hijab-clad woman is being abused for what she’s wearing – Peter Bradshaw explains the limitations of this scene in his review.

Regardless, the development of Amanda and David’s relationship is done well and the principles offer excellent performances. To complicate things his putative girlfriend, Léna (Stacy Martin), is injured in the attack and her difficulty in adapting to her PTSD is well drawn but doesn’t seem to relate specifically to the issues of parenthood. The two threads don’t entangle harmoniously.

The scriptwriters certainly had a problem with their denouement, which takes place on a bonding trip to Wimbledon. For reasons beyond me Amanda gets emotionally involved in the climax of a tennis match which is left at ‘deuce’ and apparently is a resolution for her. It’s mentioned in passing that David used to play tennis but that’s the only link between the characters and the sport. It’s true that on the trip to London he meets his mother for the first time in many years, thereby suggesting some kind of rapprochement between them, but it’s not elucidated what will happen next.

However, I enjoyed the film if only because it did offer an unusual perspective even if it failed to say much about it.

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