Jeune & Jolie – or “Young and Beautiful,” for all you English-speaking people – is a French drama film that was nominated for some fancy award (Palme d’Or) at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. It is directed by François Ozon who’s directed a bunch of French films I’ll admit I don’t personally know all too well. What is this film about, you ask? Well, I’ll refer you to the title on that one, obviously. This film features Isabelle, a young and beautiful 17-year-old girl who is a little more than sexually curious. In short, this film follows Isabelle as she explores her sexuality by playing the role of a prostitute, engaging in regular sexual encounters with older men for a rather handsome sum of money.
Several interesting themes are looked at, especially the way that Isabelle grapples with her own sexuality by reaching out to male clients in an attempt to satisfy her seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. Even some concerns over morality are raised – that is, who really is in control of these situations: Isabelle who lies about her age and arranges the meetings, or the male clients who turn a blind eye and take advantage over her blatantly youthful appearance? It’s obvious from the start that Isabelle is not your typical teenager, and the daily trifles of adolescence are of no interest to her. In this way, Isabelle must struggle with her identity as she is told over and over again that she is “once a prostitute, always a prostitute”.
I liked this film. Marine Vacth, who plays Isabelle, is stunning. This film is a pleasure to watch if only because this woman is unfairly attractive. If that doesn’t do it for you, however, then I would still recommend this film because of its deeply engaging portrayal of an adolescent experimenting with a darker world beyond her own. There are some rather dramatic and intense scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat, as well as a fulfilling amount of insight into the emotions of young Isabelle. If you get the chance, give it a watch.