Water Lilies (Naissance des pieuvres)

Ooh la la! C’est un film about 15-year-old French lesbians! C’est choquer! Unfortunately, c’est also the most blank, slow, ambiguous and self-consciously “artsy” flick of the year. Even if you were a Very Dodgy Man who wanted to watch teenage synchronised swimmers give each other brooding glances (stop reading and go away now — 15 may be legal in France, but it’s NOT in the UK), you’d be better off sticking with your ill-directed binoculars. This film is about as sexy as Norman Lamont in a bin. Repeat: you will leave disappointed, whatever you came for.

The non-action revolves around Marie, a taciturn, sullen and underdeveloped fille who neglects her sweet natured and over-developed best friend Anne when she falls in love with Floriane, a provocative and manipulative seductress. Except Floriane is apparently (wait for it) bisexual, and keeps flitting between Marie and a hunky tosser called Francois, who Anne has a huge crush on. This creates a kind of Love Square, except Francois is really only interested in himself, which uncomplicates matters. Throw in lots of plot-unrelated synchronised swimming, lingering shots on pensive faces and a scene where Marie nicks Floriane’s rubbish, and you’re left with a long, confusing and occasionally downright bizarre 85 minutes. At one point, for reasons best known to herself, Floriane begs Marie to break her hymen with her fingers. Eh? Is this not something best done alone dear, if at all? There are a few funny lines, but also some truly odd ones, including Floriane’s assertion that “horseriding is for abortions”. Sacre bleu! Should the French pro-life lobby be told to try and ban les chevaux?

Water Lilies isn’t a bad film, not in the sense of “I-can’t-take-another-minute-I-have-to-walk-out-right-now” Striptease-bad. The basic idea of the plot has potential, but the script is mediocre and seems to have every other stage direction as “Marie gazes into the middle distance”. However, though the slow pace and shaky narrative are trying, it’s the characters which really let the film down — bar the subsidiary role of Anne, they’re all eminently dislikeable, disloyal and affected, and you don’t care what they think or feel or end up doing. The bottom of a swimming pool is probably the best place for them.

Official UK Site
Water Lilies 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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