*** In French with English Subtitles ***
Wow... I almost completely loved this one. What a surprisingly beautiful little gem!! Solid acting performances on every count, especially by the lovely leads who share all kinds of natural chemistry. The settings were gorgeously shot by French director Catherine Corsini (co-written with Laurette Polmanss). The plot had enough depth to keep me engaged with a nice mix of romance, drama, comedy, and melodrama. To me, some of the most authentic stories have a little bit of everything.
Set on both a country farm and the city of Paris in 1971, we are first introduced to the younger, dark-haired and robust farm girl, Delphine (Izïa Higelin, also a rock singer, guitarist!)... and her vastly isolated world as a lesbian in rural France. When circumstances take a turn for the bleak, she takes a shot at independence and aims big with the capital. Now in Paris, she's got her own place, a new kind of job, and a chance encounter with a wild and mischievous women's liberation group introduces her to the older and beautiful blond Carole.
Carole (Cécile de France) is straight, partnered with a guy (no M/F scenes here), and fills all her time as both a Spanish teacher and passionate political activist for women's rights (abortion is illegal in France at this time and until 1975). And yet she finds herself taken with this tough and earthy little farm girl with the sexy smile. They go on to spend a lot of time together and bond via the women's rights group... which, btw, is full of attractive, long-haired fiery French women who plan, scheme, yell and sing together... loved the 1970s hair and clothes!
The leads get lost in an erotic paradise charged with the high of creating positive change. Family issues on the farm soon interrupt the honeymoon period for a major dose of reality and these two are faced with some hard decisions.
While I thought the activist stuff was interesting and fun, I'm glad it was a backdrop to the romance and the character studies we find here. It was interesting seeing stuff like the lesbians and het girls debating the priorities of a women's activist group... but thankfully, the politics didn't overwhelm. Instead, we see personal journeys of feminism through these leads. I really loved the character inversion that goes down between these two when the settings change. They did a really good job there. :)
Overall, I'd say the film really captured the struggles of coming out, the limitations of being a female in that time, and the timeless theme of family obligation versus pursuing personal happiness. And it most definitely captured the passion of mutual and authentic love-- the best of times when you fall hard... which is why they should have kept a direct translation of the film's French title, "La Belle Saison," which means, 'the beautiful season.'
I do have some criticisms, like, I wish there was more 60s-70s music and at least some glimpse into the day jobs the leads had in Paris. But the biggest thing keeping me from giving this film 5 stars is the ending. No lesbians die in the end, lol... but these leads deserved better. Lesbian audiences deserve better. *sigh*
There is profanity, full nudity, and somewhat graphic F/F sex... all very tastefully done, I must say.