Amanda

 

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A sensitive portrayal of lives in Paris changed by a chance event.

 
Amanda

Vincent Lacoste and Isaure Multrier

 

Although Amanda is his third feature, the French filmmaker Mikhaël Hers (co-writer as well as director here) is a new name to us. The tone that he brings to this work is notably relaxed as we settle down to a portrait of two siblings living in Paris and notably close to one another. David (Vincent Lacoste) is 24 and looks after an apartment block for a landlord, while his sister, Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb) is a single mother devoted to her 7-year-old daughter, Amanda (the assured Isaure Multrier). When Amanda needs a piano teacher, it looks as though Léna (Stacy Martin), newly arrived from Bordeaux, will fit the bill and it is apparent that a romance might easily blossom between her and David. In a good and well-chosen cast, Vincent Lacoste is ideal as David and, despite the film's title, it is he rather than Amanda who is the pivotal figure here. My only qualm in these early scenes concerns the music score which is rather too ready to turn tinkly.

 

As it turns out, the mood of the piece is about to change and that presents a problem for the reviewer since the dramatic event which is at the core of the story should emerge as a surprise, a shock indeed. It certainly is for the characters concerned who also include David's aunt (Marianne Basler), another denizen of Paris, and the mother of the siblings, Alison (Greta Scacchi), who bowed out of their lives years earlier and lives in London (the film's concluding scenes take place there and, although Scacchi's role is little more than a cameo, it is so well judged that I count it among her best work).

 

Despite dealing with lives that are suddenly upturned, Amanda wisely refuses to turn into anything resembling melodrama. If it has a weakness it is in the later stages when the storyline becomes a bit too diffuse and the conclusion, rounded off as it is with a would-be significant use of the Joe Cocker song 'Elvis Has Left the Building', is arguably more ambiguous than intended. But the best things in Amanda are good enough to make it a recommendation. To clarify what is especially worthwhile about it involves revealing what it is that changes these lives, so either stop reading now or continue depending on how much you want to know in advance. Although a few plot details can be queried, Amanda is essentially a wholly persuasive study of the after-effects of being caught up by pure chance in a terrorist bombing: Sandrine is killed and David is faced by the need to decide if his life should now take a fresh course as it would if he were to see himself as the best person to apply to become Amanda's guardian. The details of how this attack affects those who had been close to Sandrine are utterly persuasive. Furthermore, Lacoste's key performance also ensures that Amanda is a convincing portrayal of a young man being shaped by events that he could never have foreseen.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Vincent Lacoste, Isaure Multrier, Stacy Martin, Ophélia Kolb, Marianne Basler, Jonathan Cohen, Greta Scacchi.

 

Dir Mikhaël Hers, Pro Pierre Guyard, Screenplay Mikhaël Hers and Maud Ameline, Ph Sébastien Buchmann, Art Dir Charlotte de Cadeville, Ed Marion Monnier, Music Anton Sanko, Costumes Caroline Spieth.

 

Nord-Ouest Films/Arte France Cinéma/Pyramide/MK2 Films/Canal+/Ciné+-Curzon.
107 mins. France. 2018. Rel: 3 January 2020. Cert. 15.