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Wednesday, October 23

Fat Girl (À ma soeur!)

We spend our life journey striving for significance and craving for validation since there is no greater way to set a person at ease. Our battle begins within our cradles when competition is instilled into our minds and thus, sibling rivalry is born. This is a common theme in movies that feature child characters such as Fat Girl (À ma soeur!). This is a film which makes a strong impression due to its famous sex scene and the shocking ending that simply gets stuck with the viewer. Yet, Fat Girl (2001) is much more than meets the eye.


Two sisters, 15 year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and 13 year-old Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) share a difficult relationship and the infamous sibling rivalry. Elena is pretty, slim and anxious to lose her virginity to love; Anaïs is fat, sensitive and willing to lose it to a total stranger who will make things easier and less complicated. Opportunity arises and Fernando (Libero de Rienzo), an Italian college student sweeps Elena off her feet into the sexual experience she has been waiting for. He is a smooth operator who cunningly worms his way into her body and mind, tricking her into believing he is in love with her. Since the two girls share the same bedroom, Anaïs is a silent witness to the penetrating moments and she is so tender in weeping her sister's loss of innocence. 

The director, Catherine Breillat, is very cynical about love as it is; Elena's sexual awakening is deprived of any shred of faith in the possibility of a relationship past the vacation framework. It is as if she wanted to convince us that there is no such thing as romance or pure love; the world is built of formal stages we need to pass in order to reach maturity. Reality and romance simply do not mix and the sooner young girls learn this, the better. As it is in life, beauty seems to have become much of a trivial concern and pretty girls usually get so wrapped up in their own looks that eventually fail to see beyond appearance. The details of beauty elude Anaïs who replaces every sexual urge with food. Though younger, she is more mature than her sister and less likely to fall for shallow guys like Fernando; however, both sisters are fastly entering their sexual age. So, while Elena and Fernando are passionately kissing, Anaïs gazes into their soft tongue movements while slowly eating a creamy banana split. 

Food is the substitute for sex and mental comfort; when Elena meanly hits her, Anaïs goes swimming in the pool. Her insensitive, self-centred parents simply acknowledge her absence while at the breakfast table and after she joins them, Elena tries to comfort her by stuffing bread into her mouth. Her sister eats away her tears as chewing and swallowing are closer to her body and spirit than her own family. The love-hate relationship between the girls sounds so natural and their honesty glides between sheer meanness and hearty hugging. They look in the mirror and Elena says: 'No one would think we're sisters'. Yet their similarities are the ones that bound them: they are both trying to be significant in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Elena catches the eye of people with her looks, whereas her sister's delicate features get easily overlooked because of her plump figure.

The tension and competitiveness between the two sisters die out when Elena's fling is no longer a secret. The mother fears more her husband's reaction than bothers to get closer to her daughter. On the way back to Paris, she stops the car to get some sleep and Anaïs gets her wish granted. The last image of the movie is Catherine Breillat's way of empowering the fat girl; in a world where people get so easily labelled and so deeply judged, every now and then, wishes do come true. It is unexpected, a bit shocking, yet it is simple and cruel. It is the fat girl's chance to live more than she's experienced through her sister's eyes and more than she's ever eaten. Life is bigger than anything else.
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