Social worker-turned-director Fred Baillif uses a cast of newbie actors to give an insider’s look at a Geneva care home for teenagers. A compassionate vérité drama, it zeroes in on the teens and the staff struggling with impossible choices.
The film is largely divided into individual character pieces: 17-year-old Audrey, orphaned by a car crash, is in trouble for having sex with a younger boy; Novinha is spending a weekend with her mother; new intake Précieuse arrives under an emergency protection order after a domestic violence incident – and so on.
Each vignette is captured by Bailliff’s unintrusive handheld camera in docudrama style. But he also shows us the other side of the story: the care workers desperately trying to reconcile state-sanctioned edicts with the reality on the ground.
There are non-professional actors here who would put a few formally-trained ones to shame
Not all of it lands: a Rashomon-style structure is neither earned nor successfully realised, resulting in about ten minutes of needless repetition, and there’s also a flirtation with melodrama towards the climax.
But those errors of judgment aside, ‘La Mif’ (slang for ‘the fam’) is sensitively written and superbly acted. There are non-professional actors here who would put a few of their formally-trained counterparts to shame.
In UK cinemas Feb 25.