Camille Rewinds - or Camille Redouble, for the Francophiles amongst us - takes a somewhat well-worn but intriguing trope and gives it an appealing Gallic twist. What if you could go back and change the direction of your life?
It's a fantasy that has been tackled in film and literature countless times; Back to the Future comes immediately to mind, as does Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married. However, when French writer/director/actor Naomie Lvovsky turned her hand to the subject, she made something that is at once wistful and funny without wallowing in nostalgia.
Lvovsky, familiar to local audiences from such recent festival favourites as Granny's Funeral, Farewell, My Queen and Skylab, is the titular Camille, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking forty-something Frenchwoman trying - and failing, by and large - to cope with the breakup of her 25 year marriage to Eric (Samir Guesmi), whom she fell in love with at high school. Hitting the hooch rather too hard at a New Year's Eve party, she blacks out and wakes up with more than the usual post-binge regrets; she's jumped back into her own body in the year 1985 (amusingly, Lvovsky plays both the adult Camille and her teenage antecedent).
This strange turn of events - we're never really clued in as to whether it's real or fantasy, but from Camille's point of view that's largely irrelevant - affords her the opportunity to evaluate her youthful choices, and perhaps even change them for the better. However, doing so means re-encountering Eric at the time she first fell for him, and his charms are difficult to refuse. It also means reconnecting with her parents (Yolande Moreau and Michel Vuillermoz) and her childhood posse of BFFs, Josepha, Alice and Louise (Judith Chemla, India Hair and Julia Faure).
Chemla was good enough to talk to us about her part in the film. Although a relative newcomer to the screen - her first role was in the 2007 French comedy-thriller Hellphone - she has been remarkably prolific, appearing in 18 different projects over the past six years. Playing the spiky, self-possessed Josepha gave her the chance to essay a markedly different role from those she's played in the past, although, as she explains, it almost didn't happen that way.
"At first they wanted to give me the part of Louise in the movie - the girl with the glasses," Chemla explains, referencing Camille's mousier other friend. "But they couldn't really find anyone who would suit the part of Josepha. I'd already played the parts of girls who have been a bit frail, a bit vulnerable, or a bit clumsy, so I wanted to play a character that is very strong, that believes in life, that will stand up to everyone."
Lvovsky felt the same, and Chemla is effusive in her gratitude to the triple-threat filmmaker for granting her the opportunity to flex her acting muscles. "She felt the same way," she says of Lvovsky. "She thought that would be for the best. The film was very personal for her, so it made the whole process make a little more sense. We were very close. She was giving us so much, and she was acting and directing at the same time."
Lvovsky also acted as Chemla's guide into the world and mindset of the average teenage girl, circa 1985. The film revels in the fashions and trends of its period setting, and it's interesting to note that Camille travels back to the year that was Marty McFly's point of departure in the influential Back to the Future. Although Chemla herself was born in the middle of the "Me" decade, her memories of the period are hazy. When it came to wardrobe and style choices, not to mention musical tastes and language, Lvovksy was her anchor. "She gave me a lot of advice. She wanted me to have my hair much darker, for example, and she wanted me to have a fringe. But, of course, you are very free to make your own choices and suggestions as well."
And though, as mentioned, the broad outlines of the film's plot is hardly the most original story, Chemla is adamant that it retains it's own distinctive personality, which she puts down to Lvovsky's emotional connection to the material.
"It is very close to Naomie's personality," she says. "Life always moves between laughter and tears, and this movie is really like that, the way it is done. It very much reflects the way she sees life, and it's a very good reflection of her humour as well."
She's right, too. Camille Rewinds works best when its examining the nature of regret, and the notion that, for all the pain our choices sometimes bring us, they all contribute to who we are, making even the bitterest memory important, even necessary.
Speaking of which, it seemed germane to ask Chemla if, young though she may be, she has any lasting regrets, anything in her past that she would change, given the chance.
"No!" she exclaims, and laughs.
BY TRAVIS JOHNSON