Paula, played superbly by Laetitia Dosch, is young woman who, when we first meet her, appears hysterical and impenetrable. Is a bad roller-coaster ride about to commence? Thankfully not. Here is a character who convincingly arcs from destructive and messy to resourceful and graceful.
In Dosch’s dynamic performance, Paula lives out a precarious existence in Paris, being pursued by an ex, attempting to reconcile with her mother and picking up new friends and jobs along the way. Her vulnerability carries a bite that you might expect from a grittier film. She is headstrong, rarely shy and often reactive – and sometimes to her own detriment.
Paula unloads on whoever is close by, an unbridled sharing and exuberance that in the wrong hands could appear psychopathic but in this performance comes across as endearing and multifaceted. She tees up for a confrontation with her mother by tilting her head side-to-side like a boxer. Paris through her eyes contains pockets of possibility. This isn’t endless helicopter shots and golden-hour avenues. Rather, accompanied by modern brassy jazz and escapist synth soundtrack, she elbows her way through old nooks and crannies, alleys and subways.
There are many types of femininity on display in Léonor Serraille’s film; female friendship, corporate glamour and make-up, motherhood and so on. The ‘male gaze’ is minimal. In fact, we see women through men’s eyes only through the viewfinder of Paula’s ex’s camera, as she flicks through his archive. This vision of womanhood is framed as something old and passé – and serves to highlight the contrast between it and the film’s bold approach.