Lily Sometimes -- Film Review

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CANNES -- There's nothing very convincing about the characters or situations in Fabienne Berthaud's feel-good second feature "Lily Sometimes," the portrait of a wildly nonconformist girl and the straight sister who is forced to take care of her after their mother dies. Still, the fact it copped the Director's Fortnight Art Cinema Award indicates it has the right, easily digestible ingredients to find art house and family audiences, mainly thanks to the warm appeal of stars Diane Kruger and Ludivine Sagnier.

Appearing wild-eyed and sans makeup, Sagnier is a far cry from the sexy Lolita of "Swimming Pool." Her Lily is an imaginative, nature-loving girl romping through the French countryside in a flimsy negligee, unnaturally (and comically) drawn to furry animals and with a humorously creative streak that expresses itself compulsively. When her sweet-tempered mother dies unexpectedly in the first scene, Lily is left on her own in a rambling country farmhouse.

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A series of complications ensue: Lily goes wild in town, runs away in Paris, makes off with Clara's mother-in-law's lapdog, tries to seduce some local boys, etc.

Lily is obviously in no condition to be left to her own devices and, after a disastrous trial period, her older sister Clara (Diane Kruger) moves in to take care of her. Her marriage to a nice young lawyer (Denis Menochet) predictably falls victim to Lily's demanding needs for a caregiver, Rather than reading this as a giant personal sacrifice for Clara, Berthaud and Pascal Arnold's script glibly exalts the happy cohabitation of the two sisters (more truthfully described by Clara's husband as "two crazy spinsters").

There's more than a hint of Woodstock here, particularly when three strange men appear out of the blue in a van to show that spinsterhood doesn't mean a sexless life. It's a facile victory of Bohemia over the bourgeoisie, but what is more disturbing is the way the film romanticizes schizophrenia (never labeled as such) and greatly simplifies the solution.

Ludivine turns in a memorably off-beat performance as the outspoken girl who marches to a different drummer and Kruger is simply charming; her delicate, low-key approach to Clara ends the film on an unlikely upbeat note.

Nathalie Durand's warm, sensual cinematography is accompanied by Michael Stevens' delicate score.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Directors Fortnight
Sales: SND Groupe M6
Production company: Le Bureau
Cast: Diane Kruger, Ludivine Sagnier, Denis Menochet, Brigitte Catillon, Jacques Spiesser, Jean-Pierre Martins, Anne Benoit, Reda Kateb
Director: Fabienne Berthaud
Screenwriters: Fabienne Berthaud, Pascal Arnold, based on Berthaud's novel
Producer: Bertrand Faivre
Director of photography: Nathalie Durand
Production designer: Valerie Delis
Music: Michael Stevens
Editor: Pierre Haberer
No rating, 111 minutes
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