Isabelle (Marine Vacth) is on summer vacation in the south of France when she takes up a relationship with Felix, a young German tourist. He is not her equal in any way, shape or form. She gives up her virginity to him, only to cast him aside days later. In the fall, back in Paris, we discover she’s set-up a website to accept appointments from men she will meet for sex. She is a pure professional, however this does not mean she’s immune to the effects of the sexual whims of the men that employ her. It is only with one regular client that she allows herself to experience any pleasure. That is until the unthinkable happens and the real world consequences of her decisions come crashing into her life.
Young & Beautiful is very French, and very self-indulgent, but that’s kind of the point as Francois Ozon’s exploration of the hubris of youth and burgeoning sexuality has its fair share of moments, diving us into this vapidly raw existence as we follow this young woman trying to find her identity.
Star Marine Vacth, in only her fourth on screen credit, delivers a powerful attention-getting performance as Isabelle. She simply commands the camera’s attention at every turn, as her smoldering self-discovery is something to behold.
Granted it’s not going to work for everyone, but Young & Beautiful unfurls a compelling tapestry that is hard to look away from.
Rating ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Sunday, September 15 at 6 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
TIFF 2013 runs from September 5 – 15. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Young & Beautiful. Courtesy TIFF.