Wald’s screenplay piecemeals information so that the odyssey and the drama are doled out, more or less evenly. This ensures that the gravity of the situation is never lost, while also making room for fun side trips. However, it does fumble as it tries to segue into the third act. Nabila and Carole go out and bring two boys back to where they are laying low. Kathy feels a bit uncomfortable in this scenario and leaves. Now, it is imperative that she be separated from the other two for the rest of the story to play out as it does (the ending is perfect),
But doing it in this fashion feels awkward. While Carole might be passive enough not to understand everything that is happening, Nabila is not. While it is set up early on that she is a bit of a partier, Nabila does understand what is happening. Given her vocal worries about what the right way to handle this situation, this feels out of place at this point (if it had happened 30-minutes earlier, it would have made more sense). I am not sure how to fix it, but the scene does not work.
“…piecemeals information so that the odyssey and the drama are doled out, more or less evenly.”
However, that is a minor problem in the grand scheme of all that Cavale gets right. Lisa Viance, Yamina Zaghouani, and Noa Pellizari all make their feature-length debut here, and each of them is fantastic. Viance plays Kathy with a brimming ferocity just underneath the surface, so when her violent tendencies boil over, it comes from a real place. She also makes Kathy a determined and relatable person, so her longing to understand the world and escape makes sense.
Zaghouani’s impulsiveness and laissez-faire attitude come naturally to her. This makes the character very grounded, even when she’s having a meltdown because a pharmacy is closed. Carole seems to be going through the motions, but when sparks of life do come, Pellizari hits all the right notes. Alessandro Mancuso portrays Kathy’s young stepbrother Noah, and this kid is delightful. He is spirited and fun, even during grave circumstances, and Mancuso effortlessly charms as the young tyke caught up in more than he can understand.
Cavale remembers that behind anyone with a mental health problem is a human with dreams and goals. It subtlety explores this, while always being a beautiful coming-of-age story for Kathy. The writing is careful to not turn any moment into a caricature or cartoon. The sophisticated directing finds the right balance between drama and fun road trip, while never going overboard one way or the other. However, it is the acting that truly elevates the film into a must-watch. These young girls are stunning in their film debut and perfectly embody each character.
"…close your eyes and think of what being mentally unstable means to you."