The New Girlfriend (2015) [Review]

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I had been holding off writing a review of The New Girlfriend for a while now, because I don’t think I can do it justice. This will surely rank as one of the top films of the year for me and I didn’t want to do it a disservice. I’m not a professional film critic, I hadn’t even heard of François Ozon until my friend asked me to come and see this film. The first film of his I had seen was the excellent Swimming Pool and that was only in preparation for this. I’m uneducated and unfamiliar with Ozon’s style, but there’s something very endearing about his work. You feel smarter for watching it – it’s accessible and sophisticated cinema.

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The New Girlfriend tells the story of Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and the widow of her best friend, David (Romain Duris). The death is covered fairly early on in the film, Claire is at a loss of what to do and David has not been seen for a while. When Claire finally plucks up the courage to check in on the grieving husband and their now motherless child, a friendship post-death is forged for reasons I’d rather not go into – the key component of the story was kept a surprise for me and I hope it remains a surprise for you. It’s not what you think it would be, but the surprise is worth the wait.

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Quite how you’re supposed to react to this revelation, I’m unsure, and will be different from person to person. Is it shocking? Is it odd? Is it funny? Is it completely normal? It draws from all of them, as Claire slowly processes her varied emotions and attempts to make sense of the situation, the audience are allowed the time to process what they have seen too. Ozon doesn’t play into the obvious tropes of turning this into a comedic melodrama, and at its heart it has an underpinning seriousness to the almost playful events that take place. However, it is not without its funny moments. A sharp script rife with quick wit and surreal fantasy sequences make for an unpredictable yet enjoyable ride.

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As the story progresses, we are tested in our perceptions of gender, sexuality, grief, relationships and identity. It does not remain with a single theme, a single character or a single issue – this is a complicated situation for all involved and it is handled delicately, with great care and understanding. How this is achieved is through its very natural approach to something perceived to be so different – it has a very human feeling to it, that can be largely credited to the brilliant cinematography and great performances of the central characters. Both of which are immensely brave individuals and it’s quite rare you find characters you can invest in so easily.

It is a suspenseful drama, if not slightly ridiculous at times, but incredibly intimate, fun and clever. The New Girlfriend plays with the audience throughout the entire film, and it only adds to its charm. I’m unfamiliar with Ozon’s other work, or other films that tackle this kind of subject matter, but sometimes it’s best not to know all that much about what you’re going to see. The viewing experience of a film as good as this one becomes heightened, it was unexpected, and I for one cannot wait to seek out more of Ozon’s work.

The New Girlfriend is still showing at the Odeon on Panton Street in London, and possibly a few select cinemas around the UK.

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11 responses to “The New Girlfriend (2015) [Review]

  1. Any chance this is on VOD in the UK? This isn’t opening up in the US until September but I, of course, want to see it now…I’m not afraid of a little VPN action to see what’s going on across the pond.

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    • Absolutely no idea I’m afraid. I saw it at The Ritzy in Brixton a few weeks back. I’ll vaguely remember seeing that it was being released in France on VOD – unsure if it came with subtitles though.

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  2. Hi, I’m so pleased you’re a new Ozon convert. He’s just class. I keep meaning to do a ‘boy thing’ and watch all his films, in order. This is the film that inspired me to start my blog, after I saw it at the London Film Festival last year. I decided I wanted to start writing about film again, but on my terms!

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    • Thanks for the comment – I am indeed a new convert. I know that Fopp had a sale on his DVD’s a while back, but I’m unsure where to go to next. I’ve ordered ‘In The House’, but there’s such an impressive back-catalogue, I may as well get them all.

      Any other suggestions?

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  3. In the House – amazing. Potiche is worth checking out too. Young and Beautiful. All of them really.
    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on them. It’s worth googling some interviews too. He’s an extremely generous director.

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    • I’ll get them both then. I saw your review of Potiche actually and was tempted to buy it. I’ll work my way through them along with the huge pile of unwatched DVD’s I’m acquiring.

      ‘The New Girlfriend’ definitely caught me and my friend by surprise, and I think that’s what made it such a fun experience to watch. We both sort of looked at each other when the reveal happened, and didn’t quite know what to do.

      Some of the more comical moments like when the lipstick was left on added a real element of honesty and innocence to it all, he looked almost out of his depth but excited at the same time. Like a child that had been caught going through their parents drawers – brilliant.

      I just hope the surprise is kept for as many viewers as possible – we should be able to share the shock, not be one step ahead of it.

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  4. Well you definitely liked it more than me, although it’s not like I hated it. Maybe I need to see some of his earlier stuff. Did you check anything out off the back of this?

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