Once almost winning the massive Eurovision song competition for France many, many years ago, Liliane now spends her days living a monotonous, secluded life – that is until she meets young Jean and her world is changed forever.
Liliane’s life doesn’t seem thrilling; she spends her days working an easy and monotonous job at a pâté factory where she doesn’t seem to have any friends, and then goes home to an empty apartment to drink wine and watch crappy game shows. She successfully hides her past from her current life until 22 year old boxer, Jean, starts work at the factory.
Recognising who she is (or was), he enthusiastically encourages her to rediscover her singing and recapture the glory of her former days. Within this connection, the two find love for the other, although as Liliane’s star once again rises, bad old habits begin to surface and former flames re-enter the couple’s new found romance, creating issues that challenge their unusual relationship.
The film is quite simple. There is no “specky”, overwhelming cinematography or bold, art-house editing but, rather, Director Bavo Defurne keeps everything simple, in a way that doesn’t bore the audience. He lets the quality of the acting do the talking, and its simplicity almost mimics Liliane’s music, which is slow and simple, but beautiful in the emotion that is found in the lyrics and Huppert’s captivating voice.
Similar to the film’s style, the costumes are rather simple, apart from Liliane’s performing outfits. From a stunning, full-body, nude number with a silver frond design from neck to toe, to a lovely, deep-red, “traditional” (as Liliane calls it) cowl-necked number; Liliane’s dresses are a visual feast compared to the mundanity of her everyday life.
Isabelle Huppert is unfaultable, even when it comes to her singing. Although she does not hold a note like Adele, she has a voice that is filled with emotion and is quite poignant within the context of the lyrics. Huppert maintains a reserved presence throughout the film, suitable to the reserved Liliane, but allows moments of great happiness, deep sorrow and love to flicker through her performance.
Kévin Azaïs is spot-on as the younger Jean with his broad, gap-toothed smile, fit and young physique, and deeply loving eyes. There’s a naivety within Jean that Azaïs perfectly captures, of a young man who has not truly seen the world compared to Liliane, but who is also mature enough to win her heart.
Souvenir is a truly lovely romantic comedy that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside as you waltz out of the cinema singing in French.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Rating out of 10: 8