Laure Calamy shines in HER WAY (UNE FEMME DU MONDE), the first feature from director Cécile Ducrocq. The contrast between Calamy’s confident sex worker and her apathetic son drives the film while discussing themes of sex work penalisation and women’s bodily autonomy.
Marie (Laure Calamy) is a sex worker in Strasbourg making a decent living while supporting her son, Adrien (Nissam Renard), who was recently expelled from school. When Adrien gets accepted to a prestigious private cookery school, Marie is determined to raise the 9000€ for his tuition fees. She undertakes increasingly desperate measures to make the money including taking on work at a sex club over the German border and the film asks us to wonder how far Marie is willing to go to give her son a better life?
Calamy was a real stand-out amidst a tremendous ensemble cast in the TV series Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent) and she really shines in HER WAY. She plays Marie as confident yet vulnerable, capturing all sides of her character through her performance. We see Marie’s independence, her doubt, her guilt, her well-suppressed rage at life’s injustice, and ultiamtely her sense of compromise.
The heart of the film is the contrast in personalities between the confident, independent Marie and her teenage son Adrien. Adrien is apathetic and pessimistic, rightly concerned that his class and his background will hold him back from pursuing his dream of cooking, especially in a private school for rich upper-class kids. Renard’s performance is less striking than Calamy’s but he holds his own against a more seasoned performer and provides the conflict that drives the film forward.
Alongside this central relationship, Marie is navigating her life as an independent sex worker in France and as a sex club employee in Germany. She helps to organise a protest against client penalisation laws in Europe and strives to make sex work safer for all the women. These scenes tie Marie’s determination to a larger cause and, importantly, never portray her pursuit of sex work as a failing. Sex work is just a job: a challening state of self-employment to be sure but not one that is looked down upon or judged by the film. Ducrocq captures sex work as real work and work that needs to be made safer for all who do it.
Like ANOTHER ROUND, HER WAY ends with a dance scene: a release after all that has come before. HER WAY is also like ANOTHER ROUND in following characters struggling to do the right thing in compromised systems and difficult circumstances. While Ducrocq may not be as confident a director as Thomas Vinterberg, HER WAY is a terrific first feature that establishes her as a voice to watch.