After her controversial examination of women in Romance, Breillat turns her attention to teen girls in this equally disturbing–and preachy–film. Anais (Reboux) is a chubby 12-year-old on holiday at the coast with her sexy 15-year-old sister Elena (Mesquida) and their oblivious parents (Khanjian and Goupil). These sisters are very different types–Elena lets her beauty guide her, while Anais is more thoughtful and intelligent. Naturally, sex is something they discuss at length, and soon Elena decides to lose her virginity with the Italian law student Fernando (de Rienzo), her summer boyfriend.
There’s a real earthy naturalism in the way these teens talk to each other; the honest rhythms of speech and physical contact ring true, due to an insightful script and very brave performances from the young cast. The back and forth of Anais and Elena’s sibling relationship is exactly right, as is the unbalanced romance between Elena and Fernando. There’s an almost creepy sense of impending sadness over the entire film, due in part to the realities of the situation (and the graphic depiction thereof), but also because the film is heading somewhere utterly unexpected. The final scene is jarring beyond belief! And this is a big problem, because it’s as if Breillat punishes her characters for their mistakes, like some vengeful filmmaker god! It’s absolutely inexplicable, and it sucks the meaning out of the terrific and often provocative film that came before.