Rivière (2023) Film Review from the 76th Annual Locarno Film Festival, a movie directed by Hugues Hariche, written by Joanne Giger and Hugues Hariche and starring Flavie Delangle, Sarah Bramms, Camille Rutherford, Till Clémence, Claude Fugère, Faustine Mathieu, Tom Nappiot, Guillaume Henry, Sabine Timoteo and Laure Rivaud-Pearce.
Rivière is directed with distinct integrity by Hugues Hariche. It featurers the formulaic but still powerful story of a teenage girl (who is mostly seen wearing a winter hat early on), Manon Rivière (Flavie Delangle). She has fierce determination and an unpredictable personality. Manon is in search of her father and, more importantly, looking to secure a future for herself. When she meets another unstable young woman named Karine Valence (Sarah Bramms), Manon’s life is turned inside out as she is drawn into a relationship with Karine that will change her life forever. This film is focused on the two lead’s appreciation for playing hockey and Manon dreams of playing professionally in Canada one day.
Set in France, Manon hails from Switzerland and is determined to try to find her dad. Things don’t work out as expected as Rivière moves towards a conventional but nevertheless compelling plot line. In last year’s Tribeca gem, Breaking the Ice, we saw a similarly themed movie but Rivière finds ways to keep the movie interesting nevertheless. The combination of real-life drama and the quest for success on the ice keep this film focused in a remarkable way.
Karine is a well-written character who perfectly complements the one of Manon. These two find, in each other, the type of connection that can make them discover that life is truly worth living. Both characters suffer from some emotional problems that become more complex as the film progresses. When Karine reaches out to Manon to try to kiss her at one point, Manon pushes her away in a scene that demonstrates the difficult emotions the characters are going through during the course of this picture.
Manon’s dad’s new partner, Sophie, is also written with precision and played superbly by Camille Rutherford. Rutherford and Delangle play off each other in such a way that the audience will feel genuine sympathy for both characters although Sophie is not always treated respectfully by Manon. Sophie and Manon feel authentic and are flawed individuals who are intriguing to watch.
Noa (Till Clémence) is a male character in the picture who gives Karine drugs to enhance her performance as an ice skater but Karine’s addiction becomes a focal point of the movie as her character wrestles with deep-seated emotions that could ultimately lead to her demise. Manon will learn to appreciate Karine for the loving person she is but will Manon be able to save Karine both emotionally and physically?
Delangle and Bramms have solid on-screen chemistry which makes both characters appealing to watch. We’re never quite sure if a romance between them is the right path for the movie to take until it is certain, about two thirds into the film, that the feelings these two females develop on-screen before our eyes are genuine. They are well created as multi-faceted human beings who need each other in their complicated lives.
Claude Fugère’s role as the influential Pat is another perfect performance found within the picture as Pat encourages Manon to pursue her goals against all odds. After all, what choice does Manon have but to be the best she can be even if she gets carried away by her own wild nature? That spontaneity leads her to jail at one point for breaking a stranger’s side-view car mirror.
Ultimately, what guides and shapes this film is the direction by Hariche who obtains perfectly nuanced performances all around from a gifted cast. This film has its moments which feel over-dramatized but they all serve a purpose to create a rewarding movie-going experience that will move viewers emotionally. Joanne Giger’s script is full of observations that ring true even though the characters sometimes hurt each other through the way they treat one another.
Ice skating movies can be hit or miss but this movie wisely doesn’t spend too much time on the rink and when it does, there are things happening in the plot that make these ice skating scenes essential to the story line. Thanks to the heartfelt performances from Delangle and Bramms, this is much more than simply a teen angst movie. It’s a film about the human condition and a portrait of what stops people from achieving life goals as well as what is necessary to have in one’s life in order to live every day to the fullest. It’s a winner.
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