Virginie Efira, Solitary Work, and Childhood Revisited | Fast Scans

Top foreign and indie picks include two films highlighting the talented work of French actor Virginie Efira, a customer-service rep who questions solitude vs. connections, and the reassessment of a tender childhood love. 

Aloners. 106 min. 91 min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Film Movement. 2021. DVD UPC 850047872142. $29.99. DRAMA

A top-notch credit card customer service rep, Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) works in a call-center cubicle by herself, save for the week she is forced to train a new hire. It does not go well. Jina prefers working by herself and contentedly lives alone in an apartment complex. But the death of her ailing mother, as well as a neighbor, along with her lack of a romantic partner or any friends, forces Jina to question her solitude. In her directorial debut, Hong Sung-eun offers a quiet, slow-paced drama which is gratifying for its final epiphany. VERDICT A little patience provides big rewards.

Nanny. 99 min. Criterion. 2022. DVD UPC 715515288316. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 715515288217. $39.99. Rated: R. HORROR

Senegalese immigrant Aisha (Anna Diop), recently arrived in New York, takes a job as caretaker for an upscale white couple’s young daughter, intending to save enough money to bring to the States the son she left behind. Tensions with her employers, especially the girl’s mother (Michelle Monaghan), mount as Aisha is haunted by disturbing visions. In her auspicious feature debut, Nikyatu Jusu explores racially tinged labor relations and maternal guilt within a nuanced horror film. VERDICT Organically sourced horror for discerning viewers.

Other People’s Children. 103 min. In French w/English subtitles. 2022. Music Box Films. DVD UPC 751778951895. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 751778951901. $34.99. DRAMEDY

Revoir Paris (“Paris Memories”). 105 min. In French w/English subtitles. 2022. Music Box Films. DVD UPC 751778951888. $29.99. DRAMA

Prolific Belgian-born, naturalized French citizen Virginie Efira (BenedettaAn Impossible LoveSibyl) picked up two Best Actress awards in 2023—a Lumière for Other People’s Children and a César for Revoir Paris. In Children, Efira plays a schoolteacher who bonds with her new boyfriend’s young daughter, even as she’s routinely reminded of his ex-wife’s role as the child’s mother. In the meantime, as a fortysomething woman, her biological clock is ticking. Writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski balances humor with poignancy, thanks in no small part to an affecting lead performance. In Paris, Efira ups the emotional amplitude as one of a group of bistro-shooting survivors who look for comfort from other traumatized victims by regularly meeting up months after their horrific ordeal. Filmmaker Alice Winocour’s cathartic exploration of grief and healing in the wake of tragedy cuts deeply, with Efira’s sympathetic portrayal serving as a linchpin. VERDICT Not widely known in the States, Efira deserves to have her body of work exposed to a wider audience.

Past Lives. 106 min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Lionsgate. 2023. DVD UPC 031398340003. $19.99; Blu-ray UPC 031398340027. $21.99. Rated: PG-13. DRAMA

Two very close childhood friends, Nora and Hae Sung, are separated when Nora’s family leaves South Korea for Canada. Twelve years later, the pair (respectively played as adults by Greta Lee and Teo Yoo) reconnect via Skype but don’t meet in person for another dozen years, until they spend a revelatory week in New York. With Nora married and Hae Sung’s problematic romantic relationship paused, the two soulmates ponder the role of destiny in their lives. VERDICT In a wonderful directorial debut, Celine Song’s sublime look at love is a best-of-the-year sure bet.

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