SIFF 2023: Other People’s Children

Directed by: Rebecca Zlotowski
Distributed by: Music Box Films

Written by Michael Clawson

Virginie Efira is luminous in “Other People’s Children,” a touching, charming, and sexy romantic drama from writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski. Efira plays Rachel, a schoolteacher who falls for a handsome divorcé, Ali (Roschdy Zem), and quickly bonds with his young daughter, Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves). While adoring Ali and Leila, Rachel also longs to have a baby herself, and as her gynecologist (played by Frederick Wiseman – yes, really!) reminds her, there is not much time left on Rachel’s biological clock. While trying to get pregnant with Ali and juggling professional duties, Rachel is forced to wrestle with the bittersweetness of her position in Ali and Leila’s life: Ali is still friendly with his ex-wife (Chiara Mastroianni), and it leaves Rachel sometimes feeling like an appendage.

As an exploration of the emotional complexities facing adult women in regard to family, romance, and the prospect of motherhood, the movie is carried by Efira’s radiant screen presence. As Zlotowski’s script bounces between different emotional pitches – hitting sex comedy in one moment, melodrama the next – Efira changes gears with ease. Similarly, Zlotowski does a fine job of managing various story elements. Moving from the bedroom, to the classroom, and everywhere in between, Zlotowski’s direction allows for pleasantly natural shifts in tone. The movie’s second half is particularly affecting, as Zlotowski considers forms of heartbreak not often found on screen.

The visual style is simple, and perhaps too plain, which stands in contrast to the lushness found in Zlotowski’s previous effort, the Rohmerian coming-of-age tale “An Easy Girl” from 2020. But when a lead actress shines as brightly as Virginie Efira, a bareness in visual panache can be forgiven.

“Other People’s Children” Trailer

“Other People’s Children” was screened as part of the 49th edition of the Seattle International Film Festival.

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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