Little Darling | Chicago Reader

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Director Anne Villaceque could be described as a disciple of Catherine Breillat, who creates bleak portraits of alienated female angst—certainly the murderously vengeful conclusion of this film is reminiscent of Romance's explosive climax. Breillat is obsessed with quirky sexuality; Villaceque offers a vision of repression and sexual misery that's equally masochistic and equally dour—neither director seems to be able to find any joy in sex. The eponymous heroine—“petite cherie,” or “little darling,” is her parents' nickname for her—is a painfully shy, introverted 30-year-old bank clerk who lives with her well-meaning but clueless father and mother in bleak suburban anomie (the action is set in the present but has a stultifying 50s atmosphere). She falls for the first man who looks at her, a penniless smooth operator who turns out to be as much a victim as the people he preys on. Theirs is a life of quiet desperation at its quietest and most despairing. Villaceque is so good at creating and sustaining malaise-inducing situations, and her performers are so convincing, that one leaves the film thankful not to be trapped in their dead-end world. 106 min. (Jean-Pierre Coursodon)

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