Prudence Friedmann is alone. Her sister is on her own. Her father is working in Canada and she is left to cope with the sudden death of her mother. Set in Paris, Rebecca Zlotowski’s sensitive Dear Prudence is an impressionistic story of a sad and lonely adolescent who begins to lose her bearings as a result of her inability to grieve her mother’s loss. In a beautifully nuanced performance by Lea Seydoux as Prudence, this personal film manages to avoid the self-conscious clichés of adolescent angst, creating a believable three-dimensional human being, a 16-year-old in pain trying to navigate in an emotional no-man’s land.
As the film begins, Prudence (Seydoux) and Maryline (Agathe Schlenker) are arrested and strip-searched for shoplifting but released when the evidence is hidden too deep to be discovered. Afterward she seeks out her fellow offender and invites her to her house, giving her the keys to come and go as she pleases. Soon Maryline introduces Prudence to her friends on the motorcycle racing circuit at Rungis and the naïve young girl who is starving for love, skips school and becomes involved with the fast and chaotic world of bike racing. Although, at the home of her aunt and uncle, the meaning of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are explained, she ignores the celebrations and traditions of her Jewish heritage and continues to seek adventure among the bikers.She becomes involved with a boy, Franck (Johan Libereau), who takes advantage of her for his sexual pleasure. When she walks out of a movie leaving Franck feeling angry and deserted, she goes to his house to try and talk to his mother, but she is too busy or just not interested and Prudence reaches the outer edge of despair. Filled with frequent use of female nudity and accompanied by a pounding pop-rock score, Dear Prudence allows the turbulence of an adolescent to come alive, managing to convey a quiet emotional power that is tender and haunting. Only when Prudence witnesses the death of a young bike racer on the circuit does she begin to touch her own deep and suppressed grief, perhaps realizing, in the words of the poet Dylan Thomas, ”Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion”.
©2010 Howard Schumann
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