"This erotic, nuanced drama is compelling and provocative..."

Following on from the wonderful In The House earlier this year, prolific French director François Ozon returns with Jeune & Jolie (which translates as 'young and beautiful') – showing off his distinct aptitude for effortlessly moving between genres. However, though this erotic, nuanced drama is compelling and provocative, it lacks that ingenuity and dry, satirical wit his preceding title had in abundance.

This coming of age tale paints an intimate portrait of the sexually curious 17 year old Isabelle (Marine Vacth), who loses her virginity when away for the summer – an act that broadens her horizons, and opens her up to a whole new world as she gets ready to start college. Set across four seasons, we then watch on as this impressionable youngster becomes embroiled in prostitution, becoming a regular call girl to a host of older, concupiscent men such as Georges (Johan Leysen). Though saving up a vast amount of money from her vocation, it seems to only be a matter of time before her mother Sylvie (Géraldine Pailhas) discovers what she really gets up to in her spare time.



Though evidently a conscious decision to be ambiguous, where Jeune & Jolie suffers most, is within Ozon's decision to skip ahead from when Isabelle is a naïve, young girl – to being a fully fledged prostitute, as we don't see that journey at all, or how she came to be involved in such a profession. The Isabelle we meet at the start of the film is undoubtedly curious and intrigued into discovering her own sexual path, but we certainly don't see enough to then believe that just a couple of months down the line she is selling her body. We don't get a sense for the emotional journey she had taken, therefore making it something of a challenge to feel connected to her for the rest of the picture.

Isabelle's elusive nature does make for an enticing, captivating piece, but we do struggle to get into her head – which defies the whole point of a character study of this ilk. Instead we view upon our lead with as much mystery as her mother does, bringing a fun sense of unpredictability to proceedings, even if it a little frustrating at times. Vacth turns in a very strong performance, with an alluring screen presence. The model turned actress may not be playing the most endearing of characters, but she manages to keep the audience onside throughout. Such a sentiment is enhanced by the sadness that remains prevalent in this tale. The sex is never glorified and instead feels dirty and melancholic, while every single character seems somewhat unfulfilled in life. Isabelle herself has a detached relationship with sex, symbolised in her surrealistic out of body experience she has when losing her virginity, as she can see herself standing nearby, watching. To an extent, the viewers own relationship with her is somewhat similar. We never quite feel intimately attached to Isabelle.

Nonetheless, it's intriguing to see sexuality explored from someone at such an impressionable age, while Ozon has crafted his piece delicately and intelligently, with a structure that takes place across one year and four seasons, and the film is split up into sections accordingly. However much like in real life, this film starts brightly in the Summer, before growing tedious in the middle stages throughout Autumn and Winter, but thankfully, the following Spring, it starts to improve somewhat. An intriguing, if completely unintentional stylistic endeavour.