Director: Céline Sciamma
Stars: Pauline Acquart, Louise Blachére, Adéle Haenel, Warren Jacquin
Marie (Acquart) is an awkward 15 year old girl who wants to join the synchronised swimming team because she has a crush on the captain, Floriane (Haenel), who is more mature in body and experience. Marie’s friend Anne (Blachére) has a crush on Francois (Jacquain), who is also trying it on with Floriane.
Water Lilies is a story about the despair of teenage yearnings and the blossoming of sexual feelings. Although the film deals with mainly homosexual feelings, it’s done so in a way that feels universal, so even as a straight male I could identify with the characters and it brought back the painful memories of liking someone so much that it completely crushes the soul.
There’s a lot of visual storytelling here, so there’s minimal dialogue and we learn about the characters through their expressions and actions. Sometimes with other films this style doesn’t work for me because it feels pretentious and slow, but it’s pulled off brilliantly here and it’s so absorbing. All the actors are really good Acquart is the most girlish looking of the three main girls, and with every secret, yearning glance she perfectly highlights the vulnerability of liking someone that you know won’t feel the same. Yet through the film she grows stronger, at first she rallies against the immaturity of Anne but then sees it as a comforting retreat.
Floriane represents womanhood. She has a reputation as a slut yet she feels it is undeserved and she’s a character that you will love to hate. From the first time Marie looks at her she knows how she can manipulate Marie into doing what she wants, and throughout the film she plays on Marie’s feelings. At times it’s cruel, at times there seems to be some genuine emotion involved but you get the sense that because of who she is there’s no hope for Marie to get what she most desires. Anne has the subplot of trying to get with Francois. At first it feels disconnected from the main plot of the film but at the end it comes together and she probably has the most satisfying ending, and one that was surprising and funny.
There’s a great comment that one of the characters makes about the ceiling being the last thing most people see. I’m wondering if the director (who also wrote the film) was making a connection with sex and death, since in some of the sex scenes the girls were shown to be lying on their back, staring at the ceiling.
It seems to generalize when it comes to the male characters since they’re portrayed as solely wanting sex and not caring about anything else. I suppose though since the film is through the lens of these girls that’s how it seems, and given the type of guys that Floriane attracts and wants the attention of it’s easy to see how these guys surround them.
The soundtrack is really cool too, there’s an absence of sound through a lot of the film so when the music does come in it has a lot of impact. Overall it’s a fantastic film and I think French films are my favourite type of foreign films. They just have this elegance about them that I find so interesting. Water Lilies is one that I really enjoyed. The performances were great and although it’s a relatively short film there’s a lot of depth to it. I’m strongly recommending this one.