Runtime: 25 minutes
Director/Writer: Chloé Léoni
Actors: Salomé Dewaels, Nade Dieu, Noé Englebert, Anae Romnys
By Dominic Corr
Discussions around class and inequality are often relegated to the conversations of the ‘adults’ in the room – as far as the political landscape is concerned at least. And yet, the harshest impacts of its existence ripple to the young, both as a generational issue to face growing up, but the delicacies of peer pressure and surrounding silence forced upon them for not ‘understanding’ the concept.
Writer and director Chloé Léoni delves through a singular story of a young woman, a sixteen-year-old, to unwind from the complications of financial inequality without melodrama.
“Plaqué Or” is remarkably simple in construct but devastating efficient in intention: Inès (Salome Dewaels) wants a new pair of shoes. Inès has no money for shoes. Inès attempts to get a job. That’s the basic premise, the wants, the difficulties, the drive. There’s a reason the entirety of the short possesses an authenticity to the entire affair, given Léoni’s decision to include a more intimate self-portrait of herself within the character of Inès.
From the more sepia-tinted colours of Martin’s (Noe Englebert) apartment, where the framing ensures audiences observe the golden inlays and crisp and clean setting, to the grimmer yet natural lighting in Inès neighbourhood, much of the storytelling takes place outside of the performance and script. But it’s never thrust upon, more suggested, and reinforced in Mathilde Banc’s cinematography. Space is a tool capitalised on, with the crampness of Inès’s family home contrasting the vastness of Martin’s lavish apartment.
Ever-present, Salomé Dewaels delivers an agonisingly accurate performance – both petulance of teenage angst but with a genuine and sincerely layered performance of a young woman struggling to come to terms with the hand she and her family have been dealt. Léoni never excuses Inès’ actions but presents a well-structured dynamic of familiarity in a character who fights their darndest to remain strong, but ultimately breaks in the face of affluence and wealth thrown in front of them. And in those final moments Dewaels’ performance, quite often without dialogue, is heart-breaking to watch – yet one can’t help but feel a slice of glee at watching her enjoy herself for once, living in the moment, the consequences a near-distant reality.
These quieter moments as Dewaels flirts with Noé Englebert’s Martin or battles with her struggling mother played subtly, but marvellously by Nade Dieu, all play into the hands of this authentic experience. Léoni’s film, though compact and whole, demonstrates the proficiency to undergo a feature-length dramatic piece. There’s nothing false about “Plaqué Or,” it’s a genuine article – shot and framed to the extent where elements come over more as a documentary, furthering it’s authenticity and Léoni’s capability.