In 2021, Laure Calamy lit the Lido on fire with her thrilling performance as a relentless single mother in Eric Gravel’s Full Time. This year, the actress is returning to that conceptual well in director Cécile Ducrocq’s Her Way, a competently made but narratively unbalanced film about the drastic lengths parents will take to ensure the best future for their children.
Calamy plays Marie, a confident single mother who struggles to make a consistent decent wage as a sex worker in France. Her money troubles only heighten when Marie’s rebellious 17 year old son, Adrien (Nissim Renard), is accepted to Perriander, a prestigious cooking school with a sizable tuition rate. As such, Marie must compromise her moral and professional values in order to provide her son with the best education possible.
While a brief synopsis may make it seem like Her Way is narratively succinct, the final product is as messy as a kitchen during the lunch rush. Ducrocq spends nearly half the film building up to its premise, which minimizes the film’s overall impact. For instance, the first 30 minutes of the film explore Marie’s pursuit to get Adrien accepted into Perriander. This action does further develop Adrien’s agitated attitude and his relationship with his mother, but the approach is incredibly expository and delays the crux of the actual story..
Additionally, the recurring themes of Ducrocq consistently unclear. The first third of Her Way highlights the societal stigmatization of sex workers excellently, as Marie’s profession serves as a barrier for traditional financing (i.e. unable to get a loan or a fair price for her services). However, Ducrocq drops this theme midway through the film in exchange for a much less fascinating exploration of the working environment of a strip club.
While Her Way may be narratively indecisive, both Calamy & Renard are perfectly in tune with their respective characters and elevate the feature. Calamy plays Marie with a well-intentioned abrasiveness works perfectly for the character’s motivations like a pitch-dark version of Barbara Stanwyck’s on-screen persona. Renard’s indignant apathy plays off of his maternal co-star perfectly, creating a surplus of familial tension. The tenuous bond formed between Renard & Calamy also makes several quietly poignant moments during the third act.
Ducrocq’s lack of focus and direction does make Her Way a plodding viewing experience. Having said that, between Calamy’s performance here and in Full Time, it’s quite possible that we are in the midst of an exciting and much-deserved Calam-assance.
The Silver Lining
Towards the end of Her Way, there is a tender moment between Marie and her son that elevated both character by tenfold. Almost no words are spoken by either character, yet the subtle facial expressions of Calamy & Renard speak volumes about the unbreakable bonds between mothers and their sons.
Her Way is a 2022 Glasgow Film Festival official selection and is coming soon to a screen near you.