The review of the film Love according to Dalva: Emmanuelle Nicot’s directorial debut draws the engaging portrait of a teenager rescued from the abuses of a pedophile father.
The irruption of the outside world, embodied by a handful of policemen, into the closed and sick microcosm of a father/daughter relationship with monstrous connotations: it is thebegins of the debut feature film by French director and screenwriter Emmanuelle Nicot, presented within the Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival 2022, where he was awarded the FIPRESCI prize. As we will illustrate in our Review of Love According to Dalva, Nicot’s film opts to achieve the maximum possible adherence to the focalization of its protagonist: the Dalva of the title, played by the very young Zelda Samson, in her debut on the screen. For eighty minutes it is Dalva’s gaze, with her restless and feral pride, that accompanies us spectators on her path of ‘re-education’ to a reality very different from the one experienced up to then.
The intense first work of Emmanuelle Nicot
The Dalva we know at the beginning of the story, in fact, is a sort of woman-child who reacts with angry frustration at being snatched from the arms of her father Jacques (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h), the man who for her is been an idealized partner rather than a parental figure. A “reversal of perspective” of which the twelve-year-old Dalva, who grew up according to the archetype of Lolita, perceives neither the character of abnormality, nor the intrinsic violence against her. Hence her difficult placement in a family home considered, at least in principle, like a prison, the outbursts of rebellion and the frictions with Jayden (Alexis Manenti), the guardian in charge of taking care of her and with whom Dalva weaves an ambivalent bond, in which tension will progressively give way to esteem and affection.
The new life at twelve
Through a naturalistic register that keeps a safe distance from didactic temptations, Love according to Dalva is therefore proposed as an immersion in a cross-section of adolescence marked by conflict and discovery: the conflict between a prima it’s a Now, which will force the protagonist to redefine her idea of herself; and the discovery of her relationship with her peers, from the school routine to the obvious transgressive impulses, passing through the friendship with the strong-willed Samia (Fanta Guirassy), fascinated by Dalva’s indomitable character. Always poised between a future to be written to a past from which to distance oneself forever, as her own father-tortor will urge her to do, during that meeting in prison in which one of the most incisive and most important scenes takes place. impact of the film.
Following an all in all linear path, and with the merit of avoiding recourse to pity or forced turns, the debut of Emmanuelle Nicot he remains anchored to rigorous realism and absolute respect for Dalva’s sensitivity and point of view: a point of view that is often confused and distorted, as is inevitable when trying to focus on something unknown. But it is precisely this confusion that constitutes the raison d’être of the film, its sincerity and its dramatic force.
Decidedly promising first work, Love according to Dalva it leads us into the exploration of an extremely complex territory, that of the proverbial “violated innocence”, with attention, lucidity and profound coherence. And the excellent performance of Zelda Samson as an actress contributes in an essential measure to the valuable result of Emmanuelle Nicot’s work, grappling with a role that is nothing short of demanding and capable of showing off an intensity that is as spontaneous as it is engaging.
Because we like it
- The sense of realism and attention to detail of a film that avoids clichés and forced spectacularization.
- The effectiveness in dealing with the issue of child abuse in a conscious and non-trivial way.
- The mimetic interpretation of Zelda Samson, able to support all the emotional weight of the story.
- A substantially simple development, which perhaps would have benefited from the expansion of some narrative paths.