The Wellington Film Society’s program will soon take a break for a couple of weeks to welcome The International Film Festival but there’s still a couple of weeks of films and then the program returns in mid-August for another few months. Following on from last week’s showing of Young Torless we are back in contemporary times with Fidelio: Alice’s Journey.
A powerful first feature from a French filmmaker to watch, this is about a young woman toughing it out below decks on an ocean voyage. It’s unusual to see a 30-year-old woman as an engineer on a cargo ship, but Alice (Ariane Labed) is a tough pro, holding her own among the otherwise all-male crew in this slice-of-life French drama. Alice’s sweet Norwegian boyfriend is patiently waiting for her in Marseille, but when the captain of her latest posting turns out to be an old flame, staying true just got a lot more challenging. Lucie Borleteau’s remarkably assured first feature intrigues with its doc-style observation of the daily routines, sudden stresses and eccentric rituals of life on an ocean-going workhorse. Yet it never loses sight of the aching, sensual undertow prompting its protagonist’s sometimes impulsive behaviour. True, Borleteau might have stoked the flames a bit higher, but the languor of the storytelling draws us in, and Greek actress Labed is both convincing in French and a strong-yet-vulnerable presence capable of holding an entire movie together.
– Trevor Johnston, Time Out.