- Didier Barcelo delivers a bittersweet comedy in the shape of a road movie on a background of contemporary neuroses, carried with conviction by Marina Foïs and Benjamin Voisin
“Oh, the good life, you’re alone, you’re free, and you hang out” sings Sacha Distel at the beginning of Freestyle, the first feature film from Didier Barcelo, which had its Belgian premiere at the Brussels International Film Festival in the French (R)Evolution section and will be in cinemas on 29 June, in France with Memento Distribution and in Belgium with Distri7. He sings about freedom, the one of the title, the one Louise would like to aspire to. Except that it is in the face of her neuroses that Louise must conquer her freedom. One fine morning, she finds herself locked up in her own car. Not that her car is a race vehicle speeding down the highway à la Speed, only that when her head tells her to step out, her body refuses. Overwhelmed by a sudden panic attack, Louise can’t extricate herself from her car. As she finds refuge on a parking lot, she becomes the object of a kidnapping, certainly untimely but accidental, by Paul, a young man seriously confused who’s desperately looking to avenge his brother’s death.
Freestyle is at once a road movie, and a mobile huis-clos. The car, more than a vehicle, is here a setting. Louise explores all its corners, by force of circumstance. It is a paradoxical constraint, a prison that allows her to move forward, both geographically and psychologically. As a burned-out nurse, this car in which she finds herself trapped is a straitjacket of anguish.
By opening one by one the windows, the doors, and even the roof (in a brilliant scene in a gypsy camp), she explores her place in the world. Contrary to the adage, one is often best served by someone other than oneself, and it is this unlikely cohabitation with Paul that will move her forward. The young man himself has wounds to digest, and together they will make their way towards this newfound intimate freedom.
On their way, a few unusual encounters energise the comedy: an electro-sensitive hitchhiker, a large family of travellers, a shrink who is not a very good practitioner but a good lover. If the tone is bittersweet, the link to the other brings healing and emancipation.
Cinema has always loved road movies, and in an (almost) post-pandemic world, a breath of fresh air and a return to the land seem unavoidable. For the former, the film can count on Benjamin Voisin, who is once again convincing, still shining with his Lost Illusions [+see also:
interview: Xavier Giannoli
film profile] and Summer of 85 [+see also:
film profile]. As for Marina Foïs, she proves, if that was still needed, that she knows how to summon just the right amount of madness and darkness in her eyes when it comes to inhabiting these comedies that are in tune with society's traumas.
(Translated from French)
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