Having started the film festival with the resounding smack in the face that was Killer Joe, I was happy to return to much more familiar territory with a lovely, sad foreign film.
The Rest of the World chronicles a short period in the lives of a French family of three sisters and their father along with a few respective partners. The family are haunted by the ghost of a mother who died twenty-odd years before as well as by the secrets she left behind. Secrets emerge throughout, allowing this carefully crafted family dynamic to start coming apart at the seams and various tensions to come to the fore.
Not quite so subtle is the addition of the ‘stepmother’, played with terrifying brilliance by Emmanuelle Beart. Surely even poor Snow White didn’t have to put up with the shit these women take from their stepmother as she proceeds to tell vindictive secrets, ruin every family event, and, in one rather memorable scene, beat the crap out of their dad. In such a pool of well developed and sensitively crafted characters, this almost pantomime villain seems slightly out of place.
Having said that, the addition of the stepmother does make for some of the most entertaining scenes in the film and creates some light moments in what is generally quite a heavy storyline, following as it does the central sister’s discovery of her pregnancy in the wake of her boyfriend’s recent suicide.
It is this central character of Eve, who creates the most beautiful heart of the film, and not simply because the camera adores her. The fact that overall she has very few lines not only reflects that she works with deaf children but also the quiet role she seems to play within the family dynamic. Eve’s struggle to come to terms with her situation is just as quiet and creates a poignant drama that seems to almost recall and reinforce the shock of the death of her mother.
This somewhat tragic formula does however go a long way to representing the chaotic web of connections, alliances and resentments that make up any family. The fact that there is the possibility of a baby at the heart of the action similarly comes to represent the future and next phase of this group as well as to centre all their concerns about parentage and family on a very real centre-point.
Director Damien Odoul is described by the programme as an ‘EIFF veteran’ and certainly this self assured and delicate film reflects his experience as well as his understanding of how to create a rather beautiful piece of art.