‘Love According to Dalva' (‘Dalva'): Film Review | Cannes 2022

‘Love According to Dalva’ (‘Dalva’): Film Review | Cannes 2022

‘Love According to Dalva’ (‘Dalva’): Film Review | Cannes 2022

An adolescent girl (Zelda Samson) comes to terms with her trauma in Belgian director Emmanuelle Nicot’s debut feature.Homeschooled and hidden from society until the police forcibly take her into care, 12-year-old Dalva (Zelda Samson) only gradually comes to understand that her father was sexually abusing her in writer-director Emmanuelle Nicot’s impactful feature debut.
The young Belgian director has clearly done the requisite research into how some child survivors, particularly of incest, struggle to understand that what the adult did to them was wrong and not an acceptable expression of love. The subject matter alone is intrinsically disturbing, but Nicot takes pains to keep all the abuse offscreen in the backstory and never exploits her young leading actor, a non-professional with tremendous presence.

Love According to Dalva

The Bottom Line Dark but with a hopeful narrative arc.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Critics’ Week)
Cast: Zelda Samson, Alexis Manenti, Fanta Guirassy, Marie Denarnaud, Jean-Louis Coulloch, Sandrine Blancke, Maia Sandoz, Charlie Drach, Roman Coustere Hachez, Babetida Sadjo, Gilles David, Abdelmounim Snoussi
Director/screenwriter: Emmanuelle Nicot

1 hour 23 minutes

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Love According to Dalva
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Critics’ Week)
Cast: Zelda Samson, Alexis Manenti, Fanta Guirassy, Marie Denarnaud, Jean-Louis Coulloch, Sandrine Blancke, Maia Sandoz, Charlie Drach, Roman Coustere Hachez, Babetida Sadjo, Gilles David, Abdelmounim Snoussi
Director/screenwriter: Emmanuelle Nicot
Nevertheless, given there’s been a few projects about imprisoned and abused young people on the market recently – Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2015), Goncalo Waddington’s Patrick (2019), even Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, to choose just three random examples – you might reasonably wonder if Love According to Dalva brings anything substantially new to the table. It certainly offers an almost clinically precise examination of how difficult it is for a groomed and abused child to habituate back into society from the safety of a children’s home.
But interestingly, the most affecting moments aren’t necessarily the dramatic epiphanic turning points. Instead, it’s the brisk, spontaneous scenes where Dalva tries to make friends with kids her own age, particularly Samia (Fanta Guirassy), her live-wire roommate at the state children’s home, that illustrate just how much she’s missed out on a typical childhood.
From the moment we first see her, Dalva is clearly not a typical child. Nicot’s economical screenplay opens with the police taking away Dalva’s father (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h, bringing a needed humanity to the role) while she screams his name, tellingly calling him “Jacques” not “papa.” With her hair pinned up in a high chignon fringed with thick bangs, wearing a lingerie-adjacent lace blouse, Dalva looks like a cross between a kid dressed up as the wasp-waisted bartender in Edouard Manet’s painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergere for Halloween and an escort.
Dalva is placed in the children’s home and put under the care of social worker Jayden (Alexis Manenti) and starts attending a local school, although the other kids soon sniff out that Dalva might be connected to Jacques’ already known arrest. That they would be aware of his case slightly stretches credulity.

But the point seems to be it’s only once she starts to see herself through the eyes of other kids can Dalva begin to understand that it is indeed not normal for a daughter to “show her love” to her father through sex acts, phraseology she parrots back to case workers with a chilling lack of affect.
Indeed, Dalva’s slightly robotic quality at times may suggest a way Nicot has accommodated Samson’s inexperience as a performer. She hasn’t pushed her young star to any great heights of histrionics here, but that makes the performance all the more believable as we track Dalva’s shifting emotions through tiny smiles or anxious looks.
Likewise, Nicot coaxes equally naturalistic, penny-bright turns from the rest of the young cast, especially Charlie Drach as Lucile, Dalva’s classroom nemesis, and adorable Roman Coustere Hachez as tiny urchin Dimi at the group home. It will be interesting to see if Nicot continues to work with younger and non-professional players, having shown such a natural aptitude for it straight off the bat.

Source:https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-reviews/love-according-to-dalva-dalva-review-cannes-2022-1235150599/

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