Monday, August 29, 2022

Her Way – trope-defying tale that trips up in its exploration of class and toil (QFT until Thursday 1 September)

A parent worrying about the education and prospects of their child. It’s a universal story. Her Way tells it from the perspective of an independent-minded, self-sufficient woman Marie in her late thirties whose son Adrein has a flair for cheffing but has been expelled from his college and is being drawn into weed and a career in the military rather than a life creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Her solution is to enrol him on a course in an expensive private school. But deflationary pressures affecting her own ‘street work’ career in Strasbourg means raising funds will be a struggle.

The good-hearted prostitute is also a much-visited movie trope. Marie (Laure Calamy) is neither presented as an object of pity, nor a woman to be lusted after. Instead, she’s confident, campaigning and unapologetic. She’s organised, keeping notes on her clients: mini-report cards on what they’re good at and how she can help them improve. She has tax returns to hand when her bank manager interviews her for a loan. Her golden coat is worn as a work uniform rather than a disguise or armour. She makes bold choices and lives with the consequences, all the while trying to transform the other people in her vicinity.

Young Adrein (Nissim Renard) veers from sullen through stoned to anger. But the moment he finally admits “I’m scared” unlocks something in the audience understanding of his character’s motivation.

Her Way suffers from unnecessary explaining: the director’s ability to let the audience see and sense the story is defied by the editor’s unwillingness to cut dialogue and scenes that only reinforce what we already know. An added ethical quandary somewhat derails what could have been a smooth approach to an already satisfactory destination.

Let down by all the men in her life, can Marie’s instinct to help people win out over the cost she pays by switching from the freelance life to a waged position? Her Way is a study on class. On opportunity. On the specific economic ethics of an industry in which some women are portrayed as being more trapped (pimped out in slavery) than those who choose to work the streets. But the lessons and questions can be applied much more widely than the story being told on screen.

Her Way is the second French film this summer to trip up in its exploration of class and toil. It’s a shame, because the vision and set up promises so much more than the finished product can deliver. Her Way is being screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre until Thursday 1 September.


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