DRAMA; 1hr 44min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Virginie Efira, Benôit Magimel, Grégoire Colin
Dark night: Efira
Jean Newman (McEwen) is a British PE teacher in 1988, which also happens to be the year when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government is enacting its Section 28 legislation that will further marginalise gay and lesbian relationships by “[outlawing] teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” Not only is this not fabulous news for an already closeted Jean and her liberated girlfriend, Viv (Hayes), but a new, 15-year-old member of Jean’s netball team (first-timer Halliday as Lois) looks set to rattle some cages of her own.
Closely viewed through the attentive lens of writer-director Georgia Oakley’s feature debut, McEwen’s Jean is an intriguer who always appears to be deep in thought, even when out and about with Viv on a motorbike ride or smashing it at a friendly game of pool. Then again, she does have a fair bit to chew over, between the strictures of her job and the overall weight of secrecy that dictates every rigorous aspect of her life. The dilemma that rears up to confront her with the plight of an unjustly victimised Lois is both specific to that secrecy and infinitely more fundamental, speaking as it does to the fabric of who she is.
“I know you want more from me,” she confides to Lois when the dominoes start to fall. “But I can’t be that person for you.” Perhaps not in words — but words can only carry self-realisation so far. It’s the spaces between them that will mark the arrival of the person Jean needs for her own sake to become.