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SXSW 2019 Film Review: “Alice” (2019) ★★★★★


It’s absolutely challenging to even begin writing about Josephine Mackerras’ thought-provoking drama, “Alice”, that premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival. It leaves me no chance but to try harder to look at the issue being told in the film and be as objective as possible. It’s not about, to specifically mention, a blame game that’s unfolded in “Alice” but rather choosing to either remain the prison of circumstances led by fear or be released from the same mental prison and be what the heart wishes to.

Alice (Emilie Piponnier), our protagonist, has no idea that she is in a disturbing dysfunctional marriage. From her angle, she is happily married to the handsome Francois (Martin Swabey ) with whom she has a son named Jules. The way they cheer each other early morning or after he returns from home is truly adorable. However, all that disappears faster than the blink of an eye, when she realizes that her husband not only abandoned her and their child but stole all the money she had. But all this becomes an education process for her when she makes one drastic move that shows her endless ability to turn into the person she did not know she could be.

Alice’s nightmare begins at the pharmacy when her payment is declined. After changing one ATM after another, she realizes that there’s something wrong and calls her husband, hoping he can help her to solve the problem. But when she was unable to reach him, she goes to her bank where she discovers the devastating truth of what her husband had done to her. The banker tells her that as of May last year no payments have been made towards her home loan each time her husband pushed dates on payments until it was out of his hands to do anything at all. But the worst part was that the foreclose process had already started, meaning she can soon become homeless with her son.

 As the story unfolds, we find Alice in a shocked state of mind in which she truly has no idea what to do next. As she begins searching for answers, she learns about her husband being a customer of the fancy “Elegant Escort” which gives her an idea to join the club as the only way out to save the house that’s meant to be left for her little son. During that moment she makes a friend in Lisa, an escort employee with whom she shares all her fears yet learns how to get rid of the same fears that would control her for years.

“Alice” is not just a film that focuses on a woman that is being forced to make radical changes in her life and career path, but rather how she starts enjoying the entire process. In her marriage with Francois, she forgot to be feminine, and as for her feelings, she did not know she can spread them all over, whenever she wants to. Yes, the money she starts making helps to pay off the debt, however, her biggest struggle is yet to come when Francois out of the blue reappears in her life claiming for forgiveness for all the adultery he committed, the money he stole from her and blaming all of it not on himself but his childhood habits. And imagine what he does when he learns about Alice’s new job? Oh, trust me, that’s something I would rather leave it to you to witness it second by second.

That said, “Alice” is one of those films that allow you to answer so many questions about unhappy marriages, while it chooses an interesting path for its heroine to discover what she is capable of as a woman. Alice is an exceptionally strong charismatic character, and the same goes for Lisa (Chloé Boreham), who must embrace the new opportunity and perhaps look for another way of living her life. In the end, everyone in this film plays their role to either release themselves from marriage or cage themselves. It’s about hard choices, about looking at the same story from multiple perspectives while the writer and director Josephine Mackerras makes a bold move by structuring the story in such a way that there will not even be a moment where you will blame Alice for what she had to do but rather laud her for being fearless during the moment when someone else could have lost their mind completely.

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