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Rien à Perdre: Cannes Film Review

Virginie Efira stars in Rien à Perdre, a Cannes Un Certain Regard drama, as she tries to fight for her son when he’s taken away by child services.

The sensational Virginie Efira is back on our screens again (hooray!) in the first of her two Cannes 2023 projects, Rien à Perdre (the second being Valérie Donzelli’s Just The Two Of Us). Translated directly as ‘nothing to lose’, Rien à Perdre instead employs ‘All To Play For’ as the British title. Sylvie (Efira) is living in Brest, a northwestern port city in France, with her two children John-Jaques (Felix Lefebvre) and Sofiane (Alexis Tonetti). The three are almost best friends, especially as Sylvie is taking care of her two children as a single parent. Sylvie works night shifts at an electric, busy bar, often leaving the older of the siblings, John-Jaques, to look after Sofiane. When child services receives a tip-off that Sylvie has been leaving her children alone, Sofiane is taken away on a preliminary basis to assess the family issues.

Sylvie is the do-it-all mother, believing she is doing the right thing by leaving her children home alone whilst she goes to work. Without her nightly bar work, Sylvie wouldn’t have the money to look after her kids. During one of her shifts, she receives a call that her son Sofiane has been involved in an accident. Sofiane was craving fries so much that he wanted to make them himself on the cooker not knowing the consequences of hot oil. Whilst in the hospital, the nurses contact the authorities to investigate why Sofiane was home alone making fries in the early hours of the morning.

After starring in 2019’s Sibly and 2021’s Benedetta, among others, Efira hasn’t shied away from being the centre of attention. When she’s not busy being a mother in real life, she’s playing one on the big screen (or for those Verhoeven film fans, a captivating closeted lesbian nun). Rien à Perdre is one of those films that, thankfully, has such a strong female lead. Efira elevates each scene that she’s in, which is pretty much all scenes in the entire runtime. The Belgian-French actress deserves to be in every family drama that’s ever made. Sometimes, Efira just has to light a cigarette and open a bottle of beer and she has me hooked.

loud and clear reviews Rien à Perdre (All to Play For)
Rien à Perdre (All to Play For) (© David Koska, Curiosa Films / Unite / Umedia, 2023 Cannes Film Festival)

Rien à Perdre is amid this year’s Un Certain Regard titles. Thomas Cailley’s The Animal Kingdom opened this spring’s Un Certain Regard at Cannes, which also includes titles such as Molly Manning Walker’s heavily anticipated How to Have Sex and Only The River Flows, Wei Shujun’s third successive Cannes title. Last year, Les Pires (The Worst Ones) was the winner of the Un Certain Regard prize. A double bill of French wins could be on the cards if the jury loves Rien à Perdre as much as I do. But with the talent that Cannes provides us with every year, it’s always hard to tell who will win. They all can be winners in our heart.

Director and writer Delphine Deloget hasn’t come to play with her first fiction feature film. Ever since seeing the film, which is over a week ago now, I haven’t thought of much else. I’m enthralled, of course, by Efira’s performance, but also by Deloget’s attention to detail in the way she writes and directs. Throughout our journey with Sylvie, it’s noticeable how attributes like the costume design have been thought out to perfection. The suits Sylvie wears are often matched with the same coloured scrunchies in her hair. Little things like this make the watching experience so much more interesting which is why Deloget deserves such high praise for this feature.

Despite the themes in the film not being the most comforting – in fact, they are quite dejected – there’s still a feeling of hope that you get as the credits roll at the end. Each and every character feels as if they have been expanded and written so that you really get to know them. You want John-Jaques to follow his dreams of making as many cakes as he possibly can, and you hope for a happy ending with Sylvie and Sofiane. There’s so much uncertainty throughout the 112 minutes but by the end you try to stay optimistic. Deloget’s elemental film Rien à Perdre is unmissable and merits as big of an audience as possible once it’s out in the world for everyone to see.

Rien à Perdre (All to Play For) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May, 25 2023.

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