LES NOTRES – Review by Jennifer Merin

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The story of Les Notres, Quebecois writer/director Jeanne Leblanc’s beautifully crafted, taut and extremely gripping coming-of-age drama, is centered on 13-year old Magalie (Emilie Bierre), a joyful and talented schoolgirl whose life falls apart when she realizes she’s pregnant and her specific circumstances force her to face and experience the full impact of sexual predation by – no spoiler because it’s evident early in the narrative — the beloved mayor of the tight-knit community in which she lives. She finds no comforting support from her widowed mom (Marianne Farley), who not only adores the mayor, but also works for him — and is absolutely clueless about his ‘grooming’ and sexual exploitation of her daughter. Magalie is soon isolated from her peers, who mock and humiliate her in person and on the internet. She becomes the focal point of small town speculation and gossip, and is subjected to invasive interrogation by local authorities who are trying to pry out of her the name of the father of the baby — which she is absolutely terrified to reveal. As Magalie, Emilie Bierre gives a nuanced performance that is absolutely gut-wrenching. And the ensemble perfectly captures the authenticity of small town culture. Les Notre is a heartbreaking and anger-making film.

AWFJ.org has recently featured several compelling child abuse films — narratives and documentaries — as Movies of the Week, but Les Notres stands out and demands attention because it actually invites us into the psyche of the victimized girl as we observe the predator’s insidious behavior — which is never called out as such in the well-structured script and by the assembly of characters. The way the story unfolds gives us a chance to experience Magalie’s angst on a gut level, and to have our eyes opened to the subtle signs of abuse and grooming. The film might be too disturbing, too painful for sensitive young girls to see, but every parent of a young girl should view it and become wary and watchful for real life signs behind what is presented in this film.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).