I’ve done so many fun things recently that I almost don’t know where to start… but seeing Flavia Casa’s first feature film, Beautiful in the Morning, has to count as a highlight.
The storyline is not entirely new: a gawky adolescent girl, Marielle, is stretching her wings, testing her powers as a woman for the first time, and trying to find a place in her dislocated family. However, there are fresh elements which made the film very watchable. In this case, the girl is between cultures, having been brought up in France with her mother and now finding herself in England with a father and sister she hardly knows. The uncomfortable grating of family members is very realistically portrayed. As someone who has struggled to bring a blended family together I definitely recognised the sharp edges the characters kept knocking up against, but also saw the goodwill and kindness trying to come through underneath, and all the uneasy tiny adjustments necessary to try and reach an equilibrium. God, it can be exhausting!
The arrival of a stranger, who saves Marielle from drowning, throws yet another spanner into the works – or is he a tool of a different sort? Soon all the women are revolving around this man, intrigued, charmed and – perhaps not surprisingly – ultimately disillusioned by him. There is a fascinating twist with this character which I feel lifts the film above the status of a mere coming-of-age exploration and suggests that Flavia Casa could have a very promising future in suspense or thrillers.
There was something beautiful and elegiac in the cinematography of the movie, a sepia, 1970s flavour that adds a nostalgic quality to the action. The cast is well-chosen, including Jack Loy as Nick, the stranger, Chloe de Burgh, who is mesmerising as Marielle, Janine Birkett with a very authentic French fringe, and a really stand-out performance from Marielle’s little niece, Ada.
This is a startling and very watchable debut and I feel it is going to be the first of many compelling works from a huge talent. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.