A beloved French children’s book hero & the perils of stepmotherhood among subjects covered at Miami Jewish Film Festival

The selection below adduces the diversity of Miami Film Festival 2023: the first good movie of 2023 and an animated adaptation of a classic French character.

Other People’s Children (dir. Rebecca Zlotowski)

Few films are as curious as Rebecca Zlotowski’s about tracing the hesitations of a woman on the verge of middle-age: should she commit to her boyfriend and his young daughter? Virginie Efira stars as Rachel, a Jewish middle-school teacher whose intensely sexual relationship with an Arab, Ali (Roschdy Zem), intensifies, as these things tend to when left unattended, into a commitment. Yet they care enough about Leila and her conclusions (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, alternately convincing and an irritant, like every child) to avoid being seen in bed, which leads to awkward, wittily staged sequences such as a knock on the door in the middle of the night scaring Rachel into scurrying out, nude, to the cold damp balcony. Rachel may or may not want a child of her own, and she may or may not expect amicable interactions with Leila’s mom (Chiara Mastroianni). Working from her perceptive script, Zlotowski (An Easy Girl) moves with ease through several subplots, including Rachel’s attempts to help a troubled child, her friendship with a woman dying of cancer, and her younger sister’s own pregnancy. Typical of her compositional sense: a three-shot on a train as Ali and Rachel share Leila while, to their right, an older woman regards them with warmth, unaware of Leila’s parentage. Underlining is for amateurs.

WHERE: Bill Cosford Cinema
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m.

Little Nicholas (dirs. Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre)

This animated film will depend on audience acquaintance with what one critic has called France’s answer to Dennis the Menace, but ON Entertainment has adapted Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny’s strip with occasional exuberance. Re-conceived in pastels and with bold lines, the Paris of Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s film is the city Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot would have recognized. Little Nicholas charts the course of the cartoonist and writer as they experiment with alternate versions of the eponymous hero’s parents and with the hero himself, who in a post-modernist touch chats it up with Sempé and Goscinny; the film collects these false starts and promising directions. The trouble is, Fredon and Massoubre doesn’t include enough of Nicholas’ scamp side for the unacquainted to get an idea about what made him beloved.

WHERE: Coral Gables Art Cinema
WHEN: Tuesday, January 24 at 8 p.m.

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