Being that the subject was the lack of women directors at Cannes, it was especially disheartening to sit through Loin de Mon Pere (That Lovely Girl) as part of the Un Certain Regard. I was hoping I could watch it and declare it to be way better than any of the main competition films and why didn’t they choose this one instead. But the film collapsed under its own one-dimensional depiction of the main character so badly that I am willing to bet I won’t find a film I hated more.
Why did I hate it? It had so much going for it. Yedaya is clearly gifted as a filmmaker, both with a cinematic eye and an ability to get naturalistic performances out of her actors. But here, the story of an adult woman Maayan Turjeman) having a sexual relationship with her father going on 20 years, seems to merely exist to titillate rather than illuminate who this poor woman is. For instance, as an example, when that repulsive disgusting man in Austria (whose name I will not type) kept his grown daughter as a sex slave in his basement that woman made a life for her children, and herself, there. She had an identity — she was more than just the sum of her body parts.
In this film, Turjeman does by rote everything you would imagine a victim to do: cut herself, throw up her food, live cloaked in self-loathing. While all of that is certainly valid and painful to observe, there has to be more to her than that for this to be anything more than just two hours of disgusting abuse. It was reminiscent of the pedophilia film from a few years back, Michael, which was also just a long look at a child molester who is keeping and raping a boy in his basement. You’re thinking: why am I watching this? What is the point?
This isn’t to diminish the suffering of the main character, who is torn between her love for her father and the desire to free herself from the unhealthy bonds of incest. What else did she care about? What did she like to do for fun? Who is she really? We never find out because the only other people she relates to treat her like she’s a child. Perhaps that’s ultimately the point: she is a child in an adult woman’s body. Unfortunately we never know much more of her than that.
That individual deserves better than to be treated that way, even if Yedaya was making the point that the film was treating her the way her father treated her — like nothing more than holes to fuck. Either way this is a weak exploration at best from an extremely talented filmmaker whose work I will keep paying attention to even when I think she stumbles, as she has done with Loin de Mon Pere.