Cinefranco ’11: Eight Times Up

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Festivals, Film Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Julie Gayet in a scene from Eight Times UpThe world is recovering from a period in which finding a job felt, and often proved, nearly impossible. Add to the scarcity of employment a lack of qualifications, skills and desirable personality traits, and getting a decent job becomes an unachievable goal. For the two characters in Eight Times Up, it’s their peculiar approach to dealing with their problems that makes the narrative interesting.

Elsa (Julie Gayet) barely gets by on casual jobs and hopes to find stable employment so that she can regain custody of her son (Kevyn Frachon). Mathieu (Denis Podalydès), her neighbour, also goes from one interview to the next, consummately failing to score a job each time. Their situation is increasingly precarious, but both try to bounce back in a world that seems to reject them.

Elsa, the film’s protagonist, is an unusual character. She desperately wants to find steady employment, but she enters almost every interview unprepared to answer their questions about her history and the gaps in her résumé. She’s creative in her attempts to prevent her landlord from leasing her apartment, but even those efforts are wasted against months of overdue rent. Elsa’s attitude towards the odd jobs she does hold is confusing, especially as her situation becomes more urgent.

Mathieu comes and goes throughout the movie, but his character feels quite insignificant to the overall story. His encounters with Elsa tend to be brief and shallow; there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between them, except for their propensity to screw up any job leads that come their way.

First time feature-length writer/director Xabi Molia delivers a solid script. Elsa comes across several people in her quest for improvement, some of which are more interesting than others. If the extra importance wasn’t attached to her relationship with Mathieu, the film would be a little better. The use of meaningful inter-titles interspersed throughout the picture works well.

The acting is adequate. Gayet’s melancholy permeates her very being, despite her efforts to appear upbeat during interviews or when she visits her son. On the other hand, she doesn’t even try to hide her apparent distaste for the jobs she does do. Podalydès is appropriately strange; he brings an awkwardness to the character, as well as an affability that draws him to Elsa.

The title refers to a proverb, “Seven times down, eight times up.” In the end, it appears that no matter how many times Elsa is pushed down, she continues to get back up and try again.

Eight Times Up screens during Cinefranco on Sunday, March 27 at 8:15 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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