Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful) review

Ozon's latest is an elegant, well-constructed affair about a 17-year-old girl who secretly works as a prostitute, hiding her line of work from her fellow college students and her family. Vacth is a real find in the role, rounding out this perplexing character with effortless sophistication and plausible vulnerability. She's lovely to look at, of course, and handles the nudity and sex scenes with confident aplomb.

It covers a year in the young girl's life, from losing her virginity to a German boy while on holiday to the unmasking of her moneymaking assignations and the effect it has on her family. Pailhas is marvellous as her mother, shocked at her offspring's hidden life, completely unaware that her daughter has been earning money for her sexual experiences. The fact that the girl comes from a comfortable home with no money troubles makes the tale initially more intriguing than it really deserves to be. There is no reason given for her predilection for prostitution. This gives an enigmatic veneer to the proceedings but the performances are so strong that one is nevertheless fully absorbed in how the girl's plight will work out.

There's fine support from Pierrot (so good earlier this year in that startling TV series The Returned) as her easy-going stepdad, and Ravat as her younger brother. The two teenagers have a relaxed and natural affection for one another, and their scenes together are warmly and likeably played by the performers. It's a classy, compelling effort overall, very French to be sure in its sly insouciance and very watchable to boot. Recommended.

Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful) at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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