Cataract

By Faustine Crespy and Laetitia de Montalembert | Drama
An outcast woman loses all her money, then decides to end it all.

Omeleto is partnering with Unifrance as part of their annual MyFrenchFilmFestival event, which showcases the formidable range of contemporary French cinema. From dark dramas to absurdist comedy to socially realist grit to thoughtful reverie, all the films are distinguished by the excellence of quality and a commitment to cinema as a vital, visionary art form, nourished by a supportive, innovative industry.

Nicky is an eccentric and outcast woman who lives alone in an apartment in Paris, with only her dog Izy for company. After losing all her money and allowances and with no real resources or family to draw upon, she decides to end it all.

After tidying all her loose ends, she leaves Izy with her neighbor and takes some pills, waiting for them to take effect. But before they can, her neighbor brings Izy back, saying the dog poops everywhere and eats everything. Now, Nicky must find a home for him quickly, before she overdoses. But hope comes in the form of Jacques, a social services employee doing his first visit to Nicky’s apartment.

Written and directed by Faustine Crespy and Laetitia de Montalembert, this short social dramedy has a darkly humorous eye for the absurdities of the human condition, in which people are driven by sometimes incomprehensible foibles, often at the expense of compassion, kindness or understanding. But as it follows Nicky's travails and then circles back to the key encounter with her social worker, it also has a sharp eye for the way impersonal and bureaucratic administrative systems often marginalize the very people they're supposed to help.

The excellent writing and directing deftly balance tones and themes, while the muted, even dingy naturalism of the visuals emphasizes the undertow of melancholy and even tragedy of Nicky's life. Like Izy, there's a certain pathos to Nicky, who we sense has had a difficult life, full of grief, financial catastrophe and, above all, loneliness. These details come out when she's tracked down by Jacques, a new social services worker who has come to check up on Nicky.

This check isn't out of a concern for Nicky's well-being, but to make sure bureaucratic odds and ends are straightened out. As Nicky and Jacques, respectively, actors Ozay Fecht and Ferdinand Niquet Rioux traverse a wide arc both individually and together. Fecht plays Nicky with a tough, resigned demeanor, but underneath it conceals great sadness, while Niquet Rioux has an eager-to-please "green" quality that is both nervous and idealistic at once. There's comedy in their encounter, as Jacques tries to play the role of the efficient worker and Nicky is clearly in her reality.

But when their time is up, Jacques is perhaps the one person who sees the whole of Nicky and her situation -- the one humane moment she has before she expires. This gives "Cataract" a lingering poignancy at its end, and perhaps some gentle food for thought at how we may be living alongside other Nickys in our lives, but pay them little attention.




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