SuzanneFrench female director Katell Quillévéré follows her celebrated debut, Love like Poison, with an intimate family drama, Suzanne. The drama, which had its Nordic premiere at the Göteborg International Film Festival,  tells the story of a working class family consisting of a widowed father (François Damiens) raising his two daughters, Suzanne (Sara Forestier) and Maria (Adéle Haenel).

The film opens with the two girls as young children, with one sister lying to take her sister’s side. It’s the perfect example of the bond between the sisters, and sets the precedence for the rest of this piece. Fast forward years later and now the girls are teenagers. Suzanne reveals to her father she is pregnant and that she is keeping the baby because she feels like it. Before the audience have the chance to think about what has just happened, an ellipsis occurs and little Charlie is born and becomes a part of the family. Suzanne then meets and falls for a young criminal, Julien, played by Paul Hamy. Their long drawn out goodbye, with one lover running back to the other, conveys just how madly in love they have become.

The events in the film happen at such a pace, it can be difficult to tell what is going on at first. The audience are not allowed the opportunity to see how the characters cope with various events, like the pregnancy, for instance, and before the viewer can actually process what happened, we move swiftly on to the next part in their lives. At only 90 min long, this French production covers about 25 years in the life of this family, and it’s somewhat overbearing. There are gaps that we’re left to fill in ourselves, which can detract from the overall viewing experience. Quillévéré takes a chance basing the narrative of the film on ellipses, and although it can be seen as an intriguing technique, it allows the viewer to come up with their own ideas about the missing pieces, which can be detrimental, pushing us away rather than encouraging more participation.

Suzanne is supported by the brilliant performances of the entire cast led by Forestier as our titular protagonist. Damiens also shines with his performance as the widowed father, as he supports his daughters no matter what, while working tirelessly as a lowly truck driver. In the meantime, Haenel delivers a  wonderful performance as Maria, while the three share a great chemistry between them, offering a truly realistic portrayal of a tight knit family unit.

The themes of the family and love resonate throughout the film with family ties remaining strong in spite of life’s challenges. Quillévéré’s Suzanne is undoubtedly worth watching, just be prepared for a fast paced film that requires a little more imagination from the viewer than we’re used to expect.