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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:00 pm 
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JEANNE HERRY: IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE (2018)

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ÉLODIE BOUCHEZ AND "THÉO" IN IN SAFE HANDS

France's anonymous adoption system for newborns dramatized

Jeanne Herry's second feature In Safe Hands/Pupille, about France's anonymous adoption system for newborns, is one of several offerings in the 2019 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series that relate to what can broadly be considered state social issues, along with Thomas Lilti's The Freshman/première année critiquing the state's ruthless system filtering out entrants into medical school and Invisibles, about a daytime shelter for homeless women. The French take their social services seriously and are particularly proud of their anonymous adoption system (called "l'accouchement sous X"). In Safe Hands is well researched, warmly acted, and intricately edited to interweave many strands, including mother, baby, nurses, doctors, social worker, foster parent, adoptive parents, and so on.

The caring comes through in the warmth of the performances, which most notably include the popular and often funny Sandrine Kiberlain as one of the caseworkers, GilleS Lellouche as the chosen foster parent for the three months awaiting adoption, and Élodie Bouchez, with that big smile of hers, as the now single adopting parent who has steadfastly waited out a nine year process.

It's hard to praise the construction of this movie too much. It tells its basic story well, and it provides backstories, or at least little details of the lives of each of its main characters. Jordan Mintzer isn't wrong in his Hollywood Reporter review, though, that the "thing" of Kiberlain's and Lellouche's characters is overdone, that there are a number of saccharine moments, and that the frequent closeups of the baby could fill a number of Huggies commercials. The dp Sofian El Fani did well nonetheless to show us people's emotions and give us closeups of the baby's changing emotional states, which are remarkable. (Who is this baby, one would like to know?) But the dp needn't have provided quite so many in-our-faces shaky-cam closeups of other objects.

First impression is the birth, then the careful social worker who explains things and takes note of the mother's wishes. She is a 21-year-old university student who became aware she was pregnant too late to do anything about it. But later, when "Théo" gives evidence to the temporary foster parent, Jean (Gilles Lellouche) that he may be shut down or limp, that there could be some problem, the receiving social worker is reluctant at fist to break the secrecy of her relation with the mother by revealing further information hat might be of urgent use.

Through several steps back in time the film shows us how Alice survived a long period of waiting, and then a postponement when she broke up with her partner and was automatically made to wait further to settle into single status (though the state had just okayed single-parent adoptions, allowing Alice a second chance eventually).

Key also are some bureaucratic sessions when various parties heatedly debate which adoption candidates or candidate will get to be the adoptive parent of Théo. Fur flies and foul words are used. But the sense is that there is passionate caring here, and that the system is working.

Much of this film could just be a TV special, except it's not, because the French are clearly willing to lavish some of their best talent on such material, and did so here. Pupille got seven César awards. Incidentally, the César Best Film winner was another picture about a social issue, an agonizing critique of a lax aspect of the French court "Juge d'Instruction" system in divorce custody situations seen in the RendezVous with French Cinema of 2018, Xavier Legrand's Custody..

In Safe Hands/Pupille, 109 mins., debuted at Angoulême, showing in six Francophone fests in late 2018. It opened in French, Swiss, and Belgian theaters 5 Dec. 2018 and got high marks from French Critics: AlloCine press rating 4.3. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

Monday, March 4, 6:15pm (Q&A with Élodie Bouchez)

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SANDRINE KIBERLAIN IN IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE

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