With a batting average higher than most of her French-Canadian counterparts (including the likes of Dolan, Arcand and Falardeau), supporters of Canadian cinema would be well served by paying more attention to Anne Emond.
The writer/director has delivered three searing dives into the female psyche (Nuit # 1, Our Loved Ones, Nelly). Her newest film, Jeune Juliette, has a much lighter tone, but the lead is just as complex as the previous ones. OK, maybe not Nelly Arcan, but she’s on a league of her own.
The Juliette of the title (Alexane Jamieson) is a teenager enduring the worst high school has to offer: Loneliness, bullying and the petty behavior from others students who perceive her as overweight. Even though their casual nastiness leaves a mark, Juliette is also aware that she’s smarter than her classmates and it’s a matter of time until she leaves them behind. She also has a sturdy support net: Her doting dad, a sympathetic brother and her best mate, Leanne.
As it happens at the cusp of adolescence, Juliette’s existence is thrown out of whack when she falls for a stoner and Leanne tells her that she’s falling for her. The girl reacts poorly to the challenges coming her way, but with every obstacle comes the kind of knowledge a smart girl like Juliette can assimilate and repurpose.
Granted, Jeune Juliette comes straight from the coming-of-age blueprint, but Anne Emond’s main concern is the characters. Each one of them is rich and unique. We’re on Juliette’s side throughout, yet she has a capacity for cruelty that makes her hard to like at times.
Entertaining, well-made and impeccably acted, Jeune Juliette’s only drawback is that it doesn’t challenge the audience enough. Then again, it’s always nice to kick back and let a movie take you. With Anne Emond, you’re in good hands. Three and a half feisty prairie dogs (out of five).
Jeune Juliette is available on demand via Apple TV.