Review: The Worst Ones
- CANNES 2022: A very successful first feature for Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret who, with great heart, truth and skill, bring inner-city kids through the looking glass
"It seems like you only take the worst - I'm looking for kids who don't have it easy, like in the movie." During the casting process for À pisser contre le vent (“by pissing against the wind,” part of a northern proverb, the sequel being "you wet your shirt, or by arguing against your bosses, you'll always be wrong"), children and teenagers parade in front of the camera in the office of the director and his assistant. "There's nothing complicated about it, it's just to get to know each other, talk like with your mates and then we just do a little improvisation." It is on this basis, on the blurred edge of documentary, but through a fictional mise en abyme during the filming that follows and around the young people from the Picasso housing estate in Boulogne-sur-Mer who have been chosen for the main roles, that The Worst Ones [+see also:
interview: Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret
film profile] unfolds, the very good first feature film by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret, a fine discovery in the Un Certain Regard selection of the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
For Ryan (Timéo Mahaut), Lily (Mallory Wanecque), Maylis (Mélina Vanderplancke) and Jessy (Loïc Pech), the four protagonists selected by the filmmaker (Johan Heldenbergh), a very new experience begins which will accelerate their evolutions by tinkering with their fragility under the intrigued, even jealous or reproachful gaze of the neighbourhood's inhabitants. We dive straight into the set on the 7th day of shooting in an ultra popular atmosphere perfectly summarised by Rémy's rap Rappelle-toi après l'école (Remember after school) chanted twice in The Worst Ones ("The neighbourhood, it was a playground... in the days of the street you didn't have the codes... And I prefer a childhood on the street than in a palace Because it makes you understand adult things when you're not 18... I had nothing when I was down there... Because we share this same bitch of a life... I remember, I had the rage").
In short, the local culture is one of extreme harshness in a working class that carries all the misfortunes entangled in economic misery. Little Ryan, bubbling with uncontrollable anger, has been living with his sister for six months after a string of shelters due to a mother who was overwhelmed by life, beautiful Lily has been branded a whore since her bathroom misadventures with school boys while drifting away following the death of her little brother from cancer, Jessy the show-off has done three months in prison for driving without a licence and a hit-and-run after hitting a passer-by, and the young and opaque Maylis doesn't give a damn about anything. Our four local standard-bearers will therefore learn a lot about themselves (but also their texts, which is no easy task) and about a possible (but still very distant) elsewhere during a shoot led by a director who flirts with the lines, very human but manipulative if necessary when it comes to putting scenes in the can.
Carried by very engaging young performers (in particular the very touching Ryan and the dreamer Lily), The Worst Ones holds up a mirror of truth that is confoundingly natural and double-minded. Between those who, like the rector of the National Education Department, believe that "it's not because these children exist that they should be shown," or the educators who find that all this goes against their efforts to improve the image of the neighbourhood, and the others who retort that "these worst ones" are in fact pearls chosen from among hundreds of kids, Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret's first feature film provides material for a particularly topical sociological discussion. But above all, the film has a real heart that beats wildly and a power that releases emotions that are both formidably lively and cinematographically very accomplished in their form, interweaving two worlds that wrongly misunderstand each other and that benefit from discovering each other.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.