Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 5:41 am 
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Teen pregnancy is an all too familiar topic, but the Belgian director Guillaume Senez, shines in this first feature as director, giving it a fresh and sensitive treatment. Maxime (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Mélanie (Galatéa Bellugi) are a young couple, both fifteen (and the engaging actors are this very age). Max and Mélanie are a sweet and loving, if unready couple.

Surely they're in over their heads when they discover she's pregnant, and he's the father. Nonetheless, in love, they decide they want to keep the baby. The title's a bit of word play, because Max is also an aspiring soccer goalkeeper; his dad's a coach. Participating in a sports camp with the baby on his mind is more than he can really handle. They are under the shadow of their parents. While Max's mother (Catherine Salée) is exceptionally understanding and supportive of whatever the kids will decide to do, Mélanie's (Laetitia Dosch), who herself suffered the woes of being a teenage mom, is adamant in insisting on an abortion or, failing that, that Mélanie not keep the baby.

What defines this film as a superior effort is hard to put a finger on, but Keeper's rewards clearly lie in the delicate texture of individual scenes, particularly those between the gifted young Klein and Bellugi, who's equally fine. Much of their dialogue is improvised, creating a valid sense that Max and Mélanie, wading into deep waters, aren't quite sure where they're going. The beauty of the film is that despite some losses of cool by Max and a hard line from Mélanie's mother that makes Dosch sound a bit shrill, the tone is very quiet, and this in itself helps avoid cliché.

The young cople's decision leads viewers into uncharted territory too. The ending leads us into Dardennes landscape, but without the uplift, but no miserablism either. With a final shot that can make you cry, evoking the Dardennes' LEnfant.

It's been fun t to follow the Lausanne, Switzerland native Kacey Mottet Klein ever since he was discovered by Ursula Meier (also Swiss French) for her film Home, with Isabellle Huppert and (Dardenne regular) Olivier Gourmet. I guess he was nine, and a year or so later Meier created her film Sister (L'enfant d'en haut basically as a showcase for his mercurial talents with Léa Seydoux costarring, playing penniless and abandoned siblings living by their wits on the edge of posh Swiss ski resorts. In between came Klein's priceless turn as precocious preteen squirt Serge Gainsbourg in Joann Sfar's kaleidoscopic biopic. Klein has since grown from nutty, hyper prepubescent to intense adolescent, but his performances are always fresh and unpredictable. This quiet little film shows another side of him, a youth mature for his age but challenged. Klein's career has received an important push toward stardom since with the lead role as a gay teen in André Téchiné's 2016 Being 17 (Quand on avait 17 ans). He continues to be watchable and distinctive.

Keeper, 95 mins, debuted at Locarno 7 Aug. 2015; in at least seven other international festivals in 2015 and 2016, including Toronto and Rotterdam and has scored four festival wins and three nominations. French theatrical release 23 Mar. 2016 to rave reviews (AllloCiné press rating 3.8/18). Showing at Mill Valley Film Festival 11 and 12 Oct. 2016. It was screened as part of coverage of this festival.

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