Twiggy (La Brindille): Film Review

Earnest but lightweight pregnancy drama from newcomer Emmanuelle Millet

This debut feature from French filmmaker Emmanuelle Millet straightforward, near-documentary treatment of an unwanted pregnancy.

ROME — A very French art-house answer to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Twiggy (La Brindille) follows the travails of a young woman with a bun in the oven and nowhere to turn. Intriguing in its straightforward, near-documentary treatment of a well-mined subject matter, but much too, er, premature in its underdeveloped script and direction, this debut feature from short filmmaker Emmanuelle Millet should be further adopted by the fest circuit after Toronto and Rome, with possible niche theatrical outside Gaul. Local release earned decent reviews and minor box office.

Sarah (Christa Theret), 20, is hoping to land a permanent job in the museum industry, but when she collapses during an important internship, things take a rather unexpected turn. Not only is she carrying the baby of an unknown father, but she’s already six months down the line, which, judging by her incredibly svelte figure, seems inconceivable to Sarah (and, quite possibly, to the audience).

When she learns that it’s already too late to abort, Sarah decides to give birth sous x (the French legal procedure whereby a mother anonymously gives a child up for adoption). Forced to move into a clinic for expecting young women and cut off from both family and friends, she continues on as if she’s not pregnant at all, striking up a relationship with an engineering student (Johan Liberau) and prepping an exam in cultural affairs. But as b-day approaches, the elephant in the room/infant in the womb becomes impossible for Sarah to ignore.

With a background as a social worker and humanitarian, writer-director Millet tracks Sarah’s condition with a no frills style that initially captivates, but tends to remain forever on the same, distanced note – to the point that one begins wondering why she didn’t just shoot a documentary instead. Such a method is not uncommon in first French features though. As the narrative heads in the same anticipated direction, Millet uses close-ups and constant electro-rock music to build emotion into a script that seems to lack a full dramatic arc.

There is, however, one wallop of a sequence when Sarah finally gives birth, and much of the movie’s pent-up tension is released here, allowing the talented Theret (The Clink of Ice) to show how far she can take a scene if she’s given enough range to work. But such a moment isn’t quite enough to make Twiggy a wholly involving experience, and Sarah remains a character about whom we learn precious little beyond the obvious fact that she’s not ready to be a mother.

Set in and around Marseilles, the film features gritty handheld imagery courtesy of cinematographer Antoine Heberle (Mademoiselle Chambon). While the French title literally means “the twig,” the English title could be mistaken for a biopic on the famously thin ‘60s model.

Venue: Rome Film Festival

Production companies: Manchester Films, Thelma Films

Cast: Christa Theret, Johan Libereau, Maud Wyler, Anne Le Ny, Laure Duthilleul, Nina Meurisse

Director/screenwriter: Emmanuelle Millet

Producers: Catherine Bozorgan, Christine Gozlan

Director of photography: Antoine Heberle

Production designer: Carine Levoyer

Music: Christophe Julien

Costume designer: Sylvie Gautrelet

Editors: Emmanuelle Castro, Anny Danche

Sales Agent: Films Distribution

No rating, 82 minutes