Film Review: Angel Face ('Gueule d'ange')
By Lauren Bray
Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard provides an exemplary performance in "Angel Face" only to be outshined by her 8-year-old costar Ayline Aksoy-Etaix.
French writer and director Vanessa Filho created a deeply emotional film depicting alcoholism, motherhood, and the complexities of love.
Cotillard plays Marlène, a single alcoholic mother who's more interested in men, partying, and reality television than taking care of her 8-year-old daughter Elli, played by Ayline Aksoy-Etaix. Set in a small town on the French Riviera, Elli finds herself alone after Marlène abandoned her for a man she met while partying. Elli begins to mirror the behaviors of her mother, wearing makeup and drinking alcohol, while finding an unwitting father figure.
Cotillard quickly embodies the character of party girl Marlène from the sequin dresses, flawless makeup, and bad bottle blond dye job to constantly chugging white wine and looking for male attention. Throughout the film, Cotillard goes deeper by showing bits of immense love for Elli yet hampered by her own demons and desires. It's a delicate line to walk as this character could have easily become a stereotype but Cotillard shows tremendous depth and hardship of a woman's personal struggle and a mother's love.
Newcomer Aksoy-Etaix impressed in the film as self-sufficient Elli who tries to balance being the adult to her mother while yearning guidance and stability. When her mother leaves her, for what seems like over a week, she scrounges for food and money while drinking and skipping the teasing children at school. Her sights set on thirty-something Julio, the son of a neighbor, as a father figure who she essentially stalks to gain his love. Aksoy-Etaix portrayed a subtle urgency in Elli that makes the viewer want to embolden and hug her at the same time.
In choosing the taboo role of a bad mother, Cotillard stated, “I think she’s the classic pattern of a woman who thinks she doesn’t deserve the love that others have for her: she throws away her loving relationships. She doesn’t realize in her thirst for self-fulfillment, freedom and the profound wish to achieve something for herself, she’s abandoning a child who isn’t old enough to grow, develop and conduct herself on her own.”
"Angel Face" (Gueule d’Ange), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, was well-received by the Santa Barbara audience. This is the first feature-length film for Filho, based on an original screenplay developed by Filho with Alain Dias (aka Diastéme, writer of “French Blood”). It will release theatrically beginning April 2019 in French with English subtitles.
A final screening of the film will be Tuesday, February 5 at 1:20 pm in the Fiesta 5 Theatre on State Street. The theatrical trailer is available below: