DVD Review - The New Girlfriend

Une nouvelle amie is The Danish Girl meets Carol, but set in modern-day France and has a more optimistic tone but just as superficial a tact. It's a roundabout, love affair involving two characters who both end up blurring gender and sexual-orientation lines. It's an unlikely path to romance and to family and parenthood that most people probably haven't seen. In that, it's surprising and somewhat refreshing. As such, it's vastly more interesting than Tom Hooper and even Todd Haynes' Oscar-nominated films, which in terms of queer cinema aren't.

Anaïs Demoustier stars as Claire, a woman with a good, office job and a good boyfriend, but her best friend Laura recently died. This has supremely affected her. She's in mourning as any person would be, but it goes further and deeper for her. She's almost in depression and is hesitant to visit Laura's husband and baby. Her hesitancy arises not from the loss of a life-long friendship and how visitations to husband and baby might remind of that loss. Her hesitancy arises more from the loss of a lover, if not the love of her life.

Written and directed by François Ozon, the opening ten minutes is reminiscent of the opening of Pixar's Up. We have what could be considered a montage depicting the life and death of a couple in love. That couple are two schoolgirls, Claire and Laura. Watching this montage, it becomes clear that Claire's feelings go beyond that of Greta Gerwig's character in Frances Ha.

Aside from Laura's marriage and birth of her baby, it's assumed that the montage might end with Claire and Laura running off in some kind of lesbian affair. Alas, such isn't the case and the two go their separate ways and build separate lives, much like in Brokeback Mountain. Yet, the separation is brief.

Ozon uses a powerful image to convey what becomes a powerful theme in the film. We see Laura getting dolled up in a wedding dress, but it's not to attend her wedding. It's to put her in a coffin. She's dressed in her wedding gown for her funeral. It's a powerful image. A wedding denotes two people coming together whereas a funeral denotes loss, and Ozon is conveying the coming together through loss or death, which is a grim idea for a romance, but there's a lot of truth in it.

Romain Duris co-stars as David, the husband and now widow of Laura. He's left to raise their, six-month-old, baby daughter, Lucie, on his own. Lucie is a fussy baby who clearly misses her mother and David, a tall, skinny guy, seems like a lonely guy with not a lot of friends. We don't figure out why until Claire is pushed by her boyfriend, Gilles, played by Raphaël Personnaz, to visit David.

Spoiler alert! Based on the novel by Ruth Rendell, it's revealed that David is a cross-dresser and is possibly transgender. David has started wearing Laura's clothes and a blonde wig. Claire is shocked and doesn't accept David's transition. The rest of the film is essentially Claire learning to accept David who is becoming "Virginia." At the same time, Claire has to come to terms with her latent homosexuality.

The way she gets there is such a roundabout way as to be almost confusing. Yet, Ozon's direction and the acting performances are so deft and inspired that any confusion is assuaged.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some strong sexual content and graphic nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


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