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LA Film Fest Review: The Year After

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A man sitting to my left exited the theater at about the one hour mark, never to return. Were I not obligated to give the film a fair and complete review, I might have joined him.

Rare is the movie that prompts that reaction in me (think Johnny Be Good) but The Year After was so interminably dull that I actually considered it.

The film follows 17 year-old Manu (Anaïs Demoustier) in the year following her father's death. Her life goes on--she makes a new friend, is cast in a play--but an almost permanent ennui infects her.

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Unfortunately, she conveys that ennui all too well as it began to infect me after only half an hour. Demoustier has been directed to a lifeless performance, and that's a huge problem considering she's in virtually every scene of the movie.

Literally, at least 20 minutes of the film consists of her doing nothing more than staring silently and emptily into space as she wanders through her daily existence. I don't doubt that this is an accurate portrayal of what a teenage girl might go through following the death of a parent, but it isn't particularly compelling to watch.

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Her mother has an affair with a real estate agent, Manu falls for a teacher and engages in a furtive grope with a tennis instructor, but none of it really seems to matter. Plot elements are discarded--never to be revisited--almost as soon as they are introduced and the attention always quickly returns to Manu's dazed, vacant expression. Again, probably true to life, but, again, dull. An undercurrent of anti-consumerism also occasionally rises to the surface, but that's such a tired old trope. Didn't Fight Club have the final, best word on that over ten years ago?

Director Isabelle Czajka has crafted a film that hews too closely to stark realism to ever engage the audience on anything other than a removed, intellectual level. Her camera is purely objective, often just sitting there in long, uninterrupted masters. It focuses hard on Manu and leaves everything else in a soft blur. While many Hollywood movies may pervert the use of subjectivity and artifice, it should be remembered that these are often essential elements of good storytelling. Czajka may have delivered a relatively pure movie in that sense, but she has also delivered a boring one.

The Year After screens again on Saturday, June 23rd at 10:00 p.m. at the Landmark Theater.

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The Year After
L' année suivante

France, 2006, 91 min
In French with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Directed By: Isabelle Czajka
Writer: Isabelle Czajka
Producer: Serge Duveau
Cinematographer: Denis Gaubert
Editor: Isabelle Manquillet
Music: Eric Neveux
Cast: Ariane Ascaride, Anaïs Demoustier, Patrick Catalifo, Bernard Le Coq