Ma vie en Rose

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Alain Berliner

REVIEWED: 04-20-98

La Vie En Rose is a small Belgian film with an unexpectedly large appeal. Ostensibly the story of 7-year-old Ludovic, a boy who believes he either is or soon will be a girl, the film turns out to be at least as much about Ludovic’s family and his neighborhood community in suburban Brussels. Director Alain Berliner, working from a script he wrote with Chris vander Stappen, has fashioned – from what, at first blush, might seem merely an eccentrically charming comedy – a thoughtful exploration of innocence, individualism, social values, and childrearing.

Perhaps the greatest success of Ma Vie En Rose is its evenhandedness. Although the call to tolerance and respect is unmistakable, there is nothing polemical about it; Berliner enables the audience to see the situation, by turns, from various characters’ viewpoints. And in those passages when the director involves both the audience and the adult characters in Ludovic’s prepubescent perspective of the world, the effect – in terms of both the film’s seriousness and its sheer entertainment value – is masterful: we’re in a child’s world of endless promise and inexpressible pain; of freshness and fear; of life lived as an unfolding storybook miracle, predictable, though somehow never before written; of never knowing what may happen next. During a viewing of Ma Vie En Rose, one is aware of the smiles raised, the thoughts provoked. It may be only later, however, that the full scope of the film’s originality and intelligent imagination is appreciated.

As Ludovic, young Georges du Fresne seems perfect: He’s alternately a wide-eyed child, wide-open with the wonder and joy of living, and a shrewd observer, a natural outsider who is already beginning to learn the ropes of survival in a world that would subvert his dreams. His parents, Hanna and Pierre, are beautifully played by Michele Laroque and Jean-Philippe Ecoffey. Laroque, particularly, reinforces the rich psychological and emotional range of the film; her Hana loves unconditionally – up until the point at which the family begins to suffer socially and economically. (After Ludovic dons a dress once too often, questions about his behavior produce a chain reaction of destabilizing events: Pierre loses his lucrative job, Ludovic is expelled from his school, and the family must leave its upper-middle-class neighborhood for a townhouse tract development.) Adding to the familial mix of perplexity and affection is Helen Vincent, who portrays Ludovic’s festive grandmother with age-defiant worldliness. When Ma Vie En Rose arcs from almost fabulistic comedy to a more probing, naturalistic consideration of la comedie humaine, it doesn’t lose its exhilarating unpredictability or its buoyancy: the film accrues seriousness and depth without sacrificing its energetic insistence that we see with fresh eyes. Repeatedly, as the story takes on more layers, throwing tougher questions into the family’s path and upping the ante of audience sympathy, director Berliner superbly juxtaposes lyrical fantasy with the harsh, mundane compromises of reality. One of the subliminal texts of the film might be that a true sense of joie de vivre is not achieved by an overly cautious editing-out of human experience but by inviting all of our differences to the table.

Georges du Fresne as Ludovic in Ma Vie En Rose.

--Hadley Hury

Full Length Reviews
Ma vie en Rose
Ma vie en Rose
Ma vie en Rose
Ma vie en Rose

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Ma vie en Rose
Ma vie en Rose

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