Emma Peeters – Raindance Film Festival 2019 – Film Review

The eponymous Emma is introduced as an actress embarking on auditions for roles and having interviewers baulk at the fact that she’s 34! Disappointingly, Emma is also only recognised for being in a laundry commercial and is then offered a role as an extra solely! When asked to speak about herself she is at a loss for words! This is the slightly flawed but likeable protagonist guiding us through her life within the film Emma Peeters.

Emma Peeters had its UK Premiere during Raindance Film Festival where it was one of the entries within the festival’s Official Competition. It was also one of the films in the competition recognised for celebrating the female gaze with a female director on board.

Emma Peeters film poster
Emma Peeters film poster

When Emma laments to her best friends that she is too old to act and that actresses expire at 35 her friends take matters into their own hands and decide to cheer her up with a new hairstyle. Indeed, during an acting seminar, a presenter delivers the message to the crowd that ‘you’ll never make it, if you don’t know who you are.’ This episode highlights the various degrees of stress imposed on those within the acting profession. Emma is convincingly played by Monia Chokri of Laurence Anyways fame and portrays that existential angst so impressively that many will be able to relate!

However, she decides to commit suicide as her only option, to make something of her life, and goes to a funeral parlour to arrange her own funeral. The funeral director, Alex Bodart, played by Fabrice Adde, decides to assist and goes above and beyond as Emma had made a bucket list which he also becomes involved with. Emma wants him to leave immediately after their tryst but he wants to cuddle which Emma declares ‘makes her itch’. She does live by herself with a cat and so is unfortunately satisfying that stereotype of a lonely, single woman! However, it is refreshing to observe a woman in a romantic comedy whose burning ambition is not to settle down at the first opportunity!

Directed by Nicole Palo, there are mesmerising cinematographic shots of Paris throughout, Emma lives in Belleville, which is displayed in its colourful glory. Surprisingly, we are not privy to scenes within the touristy parts of Paris, however. We also see Emma working in a hardware store putting her acting skills to work by selling percolators and impressing one of her colleagues there, who may be a love interest!

Her parents come to visit but they offer a few quips but nothing of substance as Emma prepares to say goodbye to them forever, unbeknownst to them. Their roles seem to serve as mere caricatures to provide additional obstacles to the desperation of Emma’s plight.

It is somewhat striking however that the funeral director seems to be the fairly romantic one which appears to be a role reversal to the usual romantic comedy. But this is perhaps reflective of the female gaze as he is upset when Emma dances with others! Bordering on the absurd in several scenes these moments do serve to provide some comic relief!

Whilst offering innovative features, unfortunately Emma Peeters does succumb to being slightly predictable in construction. Our flawed heroine, eventually realises that she may be harbouring some feelings for Alex however this does not deter Emma from her plan to commit suicide. Whilst such subject matter is bleak it is interesting to see that a woman is not suddenly abandoning her plans, however dysfunctional they may be, upon the potential of a relationship.

One point that I remarked whilst watching Emma Peeters is the use of the colour palette as there are vivid pastel colours throughout. The camera work includes long angles whilst Emma’s walking across parts of Paris and there are some enticing shots of Montmartre whilst Emma is conversing with her parents.

The film is quirky by nature and some of Monia’s facial expressions reminded me of Audrey Tatou in Amelie. We can probably all resonate with those desperate feelings that a career has plateaued even though Emma does take a drastic approach to resolving the situation! Emma Peeters also seeks to highlight the various challenges facing older actresses as they routinely audition for meaningful roles and may face constant rejection.

Overall, Emma Peeters is a delicious dark comedy to watch even though it does wrap up its ending far too neatly for my liking. I do hope that it will receive a UK distributor so that others can view its novel approach too.

The trailer for Emma Peeters can be viewed here

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