A charming cross-dressing comedy with echoes of classic screwball comedies, The New Girlfriend doesn’t quite outstay its welcome, but an unexpectedly conventional resolution makes for a disappointing third act.

The film opens with a sequence of shots of a corpse being dressed for a funeral, that of young mother Laura (Isild Le Besco). Her best friend Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) seeks consolation for their shared loss with Laura’s husband David (Romain Duris), a sweet man left to raise his baby alone. Stopping by David’s house one day unannounced, Laura discovers that David is a cross-dresser. As David opens up to her, Laura overcomes her initial shock and supports his exploration of his femininity,  helping him venture out into the world as a woman for the first time. Growing ever closer, the spectre of desire raises its head, complicating their unorthodox relationship further.

This is the lightest film yet from director François Ozon, lacking any of the sharper social barbs present in his earlier Potiche and In The House. Whereas other cross-dressing comedies like Tootsie explore the romantic agonies of men or women in drag who cannot reveal their feelings and identities to the person they are enamored with, the lack of this sort of suspense leaves the film entirely reliant on the charm of the leads, and in this regard the film is entirely successful. Duris is touchingly sympathetic as the blossoming widower, and the lovely Demoustier is very endearing as she deals with her grief while becoming involved in a entirely unforeseen type of friendship with David.

The film makes its way to a climax and resolution that are surprisingly predictable coming from Ozon, who has previously displayed a sly facility for injecting his narratives with mildly subversive inversions. The New Girlfriend’s tender lead performances are strong enough to make up for this lack of bite or invention, but it’s unlikely that this enjoyable but slight work will be ranked by many as amongst Ozon’s best.

Previous articleAIFF 2014 – The Raven On The Jetty Review
Next articleThe HeyUGuys Interview: David Dobkin on turning to drama with The Judge
I've worked in entertainment product development and sales & marketing in the U.S., UK and my native Canada for over 20 years, and have been a part of many changes during that time (I've overseen home entertainment releases on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray). I've also written and commentated about film and music for many outlets over the years. The first film I saw in the cinema was Mary Poppins, some time in the mid-60s: I was hooked. My love of the moving image remains as strong as ever.