Monday 15 March 2021

On demand: "Amanda"

It proves a touch more sophisticated, but Amanda feels like the French version of About A Boy: the tale of a feckless shrugger who inherits a newfound sense of responsibility along with an adorable pipsqueak. The shrugger in question is twentysomething Parisian David (emergent star Vincent Lacoste, something like a fully-grown Chalamet, or a Gallic Adam Scott), whose idyllic summer of completing oddjobs around a budding romance with a neighbour (Stacy Martin) is suddenly, dramatically interrupted when his sister is killed, obliging him to take delivery of his seven-year-old niece Amanda (Isaure Multrier). The first deviation from cuddly norms is that Amanda's mum is killed in a terror attack, of the kind the world - and Paris in particular - has known all too well in recent years. Director Mikhaël Hers and co-writer Maud Ameline elect to approach that trope from a human interest perspective, describing the processes of reconnection and renewal that start once the police tape is pulled down and the media starts chasing its next set of ambulances. 

What this occasions is far subtler characterisation than we'd get in a mainstream heartwarmer. Crucially, David isn't some hopeless case: he's emotionally literate, and practical enough to have secured a job with the city's parks department. (He's a nurturer of sorts.) It's just that he doesn't immediately know how to relate to this child, and he's never had anything so major as childrearing dropped on him; indeed, he doesn't even seem to have considered the prospect, as many twentysomething men don't. And yet: even as his sister's passing recedes in the rear-view mirror, the future of this bright, inquisitive, yet quietly rattled girl (played by Multrier with often comic forthrightness) hangs in the balance; somebody has to step up and do the right thing. It's one of those films I'd describe as delicately low-stakes, because we're always confident these nice people will do that right thing to some degree. (Amanda is often seen clinging to a pet bunny named Caramel, one expressly soft touch.) Yet it's both admirable and instructive in its insistence upon remaining breezily optimistic in the face of abject horror, not to mention an advert for shooting Paris in the summertime: Hers makes a directorial point of keeping every door and window open, the better to observe all the possibilities of a world in constant flux and motion.

Amanda is now streaming for free via All4 (until March 25) and to rent via Curzon Home Cinema and Prime Video.

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