Pauline Et Paulette

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Movie Review by Toby White

Starring: Dora van der Groen, Ann Petersen, Rosemarie Bergmans, Idwig Stephane

Director: Lieven Debrauwer

If ever there was a film that could split opinions – this is it. Personally, I have absolutely no shame in telling you that this film was trite, dull, pointless, pathetic, cheap and even, dare I say it, soporific. But don’t stop reading there, hear this first because the story suggests one of those sublime little art-house numbers that actually touches one’s soul (forgive that last phrase).

Pauline is the retarded sister of four. All are getting on a bit and are entrenched in their own lives. When the sibling that was caring for Pauline dies, it is left to the other two to assume the mantle of taking care of her. Naturally it falls on the one it would be most inconvenient for, Paulette, since she runs a fashion boutique, participates in t’penny opera and, in short, is worlds apart from her sisters. Slowly the burden – and all of its associated humour – dissipates as Paulette begins to feel genuinely touched by the simplicity of Pauline. You can almost see the writer attempting to emulate Chekov or RAIN MAN…or something.

When I say that the story has potential, it really does. Here’s the anomaly, however: the script does not do the premise justice. It’s lacking any depth that would have us side with Paulette or sympathise for Pauline. Incidents where we are supposed to are either overblown – there’s a moment when Pauline walks on stage during her sister’s key performance – or irritating in their cuteness. The production values are so lacklustre that whatever the budget was, it has not been best applied. Forgive me for being analytical but it makes both of these factors work against each other. By that I mean, scenes were written that the budget could not meet and the money could instead have been spent elsewhere – hence, it looks cheap. What it has going for it, however, is the two leads. Their performances are exceptional, if a little melodramatic, it’s no wonder that they are stars in their native Belgium…then again, thank heaven it’s Belgian because, in terms of world cinema, that makes it forgivable. This film would never have been made if it had originated in the US.

For all of the aforementioned, I would like to think I’ve given enough food-for-thought for those that actually enjoy this sort of thing. Okay, so I’m a cynic – I know, there’s beauty in simplicity etc, etc – but if you are a fan of this, I can say two things: first, enjoy and appreciate it and second, you clearly have no idea what cinema is. Get it out on video if you must, on a Monday night when you have absolutely nothing else to do and spend the saving on a slice of pizza.

1 out of 6 stars