Review: Baden Baden

Release Date: 2016
Run Time: 96 minutes
Director: Rachel Lang
Writer: Rachel Lang
Starring: Salomé Richard, Lazare Gousseau, Claude Gensac

By Caz Armstrong

Having made two short films with the same actress as the lead character, “Baden Baden” (2016) is Writer-director Rachel Lang’s debut feature. This French-Belgian comedy-drama is a gentle but poignant summer spent with Ana looking for work, looking for meaning and ill-advisedly renovating her grandmother’s bathroom. It’s funny and awkward but also hopeful.

Ana (Salomé Richard) is a 26-year-old working as a driver for a film production. She is terrible at her job, gets yelled at by her boss and receives pity from her clients. She returns to Strasbourg with little idea of what she’s going to do for work or what she wants to achieve.

When her grandmother (Claude Gensac) is taken ill she enlists the help of DIY store shelf-stacker Gregoire (Lazare Gousseau) to renovate her grandmother’s bathroom with no skills or training whatsoever. Meeting with an old flame who is no good for her, she looks for meaning and a direction for her life.

Baden Baden 3

The first thing that struck me about this film was the boyish androgyny of the lead character. She has short hair, unshaved armpits and wears shorts and a vest top throughout most of the film. She is still the object of a few people’s affections though, showing that traditional femininity does not equal beauty.

She even tries on a long sundress at one point, but it makes her feel awkward and restricted. She wants to be free and be herself so the dress was just a costume.

Ana presents herself with confidence and has no problem going into spaces where she isn’t allowed or asking strangers for what she needs. But she’s also aimless. She has no specific skills and we’re reminded of that whenever someone asks what her profession is.

The first thing that struck me about this film was the boyish androgyny of the lead character…She is still the object of a few people’s affections though, showing that traditional femininity does not equal beauty.

She represents young empowered women at the point of stepping up into society with uncertain futures.

Baden Baden 2

Despite its poignancy having quite an impact, especially towards the end of the film, it carries the risk of being slightly forgettable. The tone of the film is laid back, bordering on melancholy, with love, illness and abortion being a matter of fact details that young women have to deal with.

The humour is very deadpan with the standout comic performance coming from Lazare Gousseau as the DIY store assistant. His performance is physical and very natural, making him a scene-stealer every time.

“Baden Baden” is an understated feminist film about taking the step into real adulthood, working hard to become a better person and finding what you want in life.

The bathroom renovation scenes punctuate the quiet spaces with something deeper. Her frustrations are taken out on the tiles and her hopes are pinned on being able to do a good job. This is a project Ana can actually achieve despite all the failings in her life up to this point. She is determined to finish it as much for her own sake as her grandmother’s.

But she has no idea what she’s doing. Her determination frequently clashes with the realisation that she is very lacking, so we’re rooting for her to succeed just so she knows that she is capable of achieving something.

“Baden Baden” is an understated feminist film about taking the step into real adulthood, working hard to become a better person and finding what you want in life.

3.5 stars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: