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MOVIES (GFF 2023): Other People's Children - Review

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Rebecca Zlotowski's star has been rapidly rising to become one of the best European directors currently in the business. An Easy Girl debuted during the peak of the pandemic on Netflix; and she’s worked with Natalie Portman in the past for Planetarium, showcasing her range as a director: this is her most mature and memorable film to date, exploring a teacher’s relationship with a man whose 4 year old daughter becomes almost like a child to her. That teacher is Virginie Efira’s Rachel, played with conviction of someone experiencing what it means to be a mother for the first time in a complicated relationship where she’s still on good terms with her ex – it’s one of those rare movies where everyone is on good terms – handled very maturely this subject matter in the way that only French films really know how to do – god forbid we’d get an American remake of Other People’s Children, and god forbid it’d be on the CW – the potential for messiness to be a driving factor of the plot is absent and all the better for it.

The film explores a common trope but presented in a new way; the stepfather or stepmother isn’t a role that most Hollywood actors get to play – it’s rare that stepmothers aren’t portrayed and when they are they’re often villainised. Other People’s Children explores the rarest of dynamics between stepmother and child from a positive perspective and it’s that empathy of Zlotowski’s filmmaking that also acts as a powerful entry into the “sex on film” discourse that is currently dominating film twitter: the emotions and the relationships explored in Other People’s Children helps make these characters feel all the more real; and without it, An Easy Girl is an entirely different film but just as valid; something of liberation, of freedom that the French are so much better at than the naturally conservative Americans – everything in Other People’s Children feels second-nature and real here – no taboo – its strength of maternity front and centre but the film dares to explore who Rachel is in a positive light – all the better for it; more of these films can and should be made - the fact that we're in a position for this movie to be called unique almost feels wrong.

Life can be two things – both short and long at the same time and it isn’t until you realise what you could have done with it that it becomes so short – making Rachel 40 is such an interesting age to place her character at – a rarity in Hollywood – America could never – and the heartfelt complex emotions that come with Other People’s Children feel more human than they would otherwise. There’s desire, heartache – chemistry – everything needed to make this film work is present – and Other People’s Children soars.

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