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Elisa Review

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After her mother's suicide, Elisa is determined to learn more about what drove her to her death. Discovering the man responsible, she decides to make him suffer for what he did…

★★★★★

A young woman carefully lights the candles on her Christmas tree and perches on her three-year-old daughter's bed. The strains of her favourite songs fill the air. Smiling gently, she takes a pillow and presses it over the girl's face until she stops struggling. However, the suffocation fails, leaving the crazed mother to put a pistol to her own temple and pull the trigger.

The opening scene of Elisa is as powerful and shocking as they come, but this isn't a film that sets out to shock the sensibilities. What follows is a subtly structured, often whimsical personal odyssey. The young girl grows up into a carefree shoplifter (Paradis) who uses her disarming good looks and cunning to drive her social worker to the verge of despair.

As she learns more about her mother's tragic past - those things which forced her to suicide - she resolves to make those who betrayed her pay. And top of her hit list is the pimp who forced her mother out onto the street before scarpering when she fell pregnant - her own father (Depardieu). When she finally tracks him down to a seedy bar where he's drunkenly proclaiming that all women are whores, she can't wait to pull the trigger. That, though, seems too easy. First he must suffer.

It is hard to avoid disappointment at the dire lack of screen time allotted to Depardieu, who rears his famous nose only in the last 20 minutes, but this film is all about Paradis. While she is perhaps too finely manicured to be totally convincing as a street urchin, she proves to have remarkable stores of depth, giving life to solid a script that manages to side-step the well-worn teen rebel cliches which could have made such material laughable.

Proof that Paradis is more than a singer or model, and an effective character study of a girl who has grown up unlucky.