What is Nona and her daughters, Valérie Donzelli’s Arte series worth? (critical)

Nona and her daughters
Arte

The director’s first series is based on an extravagant premise – a woman becomes pregnant at age 70 – to achieve a feminist and whimsical tale, coupled with a family portrait with modern resonances.

Élisabeth Perrier (Miou-Miou), nicknamed Nona, heads from the height of her 70 years the family planning of the Goutte d’Or district in Paris. This resolutely feminist woman raised her daughters alone, triplets now aged 44: Manu (Virginie ledoyen), BCBG housewife who has five boys, Gaby (Clotilde Hesme), a single sex therapist who writes essays on the couple, and George (Valerie Donzelli), woman-child who has never left the family nest and who is floundering in the writing of a university thesis. Nona lives a secret love affair with André, George’s thesis supervisor. But when her family doctor announces to her that she is five and a half months pregnant and that André is not the father of the baby, the mystery arises and the little troop must organize themselves as best they can. The triplets settle in the company of a midwife at Nona’s, whose stomach suddenly begins to emit a strange red light that will make her pass among the inhabitants of the neighborhood for a goddess of modern times …

The director Valerie Donzelli is an expert in the art of dramatic comedy which deals, between fantasy and gravity, with contemporary love, family or societal themes. With this first television series that she signs for Arte, Donzelli is not content to decline his cinematographic work in serial form but deploys a universe in its own right. In these nine 30-minute episodes, co-written with Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat (screenwriter on UFO (s) and on season 2 of En therapy), the author-director takes the time to depict surprising interactions between her high-profile protagonists. color. Beyond its fantastic story and the touching character of Nona, who sees motherhood as a superpower bringing all kinds of complications, the series also has fun drawing a gallery of male characters far from being dominant (in addition to Michel Vuillermoz and Rüdiger Vogler also appear Antoine Reinartz or Christopher Thompson) who spend their time running behind the heroines.

At the heart of this work where it is a question of phantom paternity and chimeric DNA, the creators brilliantly seize on what makes the identity of the serial genre, between closed-door situations, the scent of a sitcom and the establishment of twists in waterfalls. The interior decors, lit by the superb photography of Irina Lubtchansky (the cinematographer of Arnaud Desplechin’s latest films), highlight the warmth of the faces while the jazzy tone of the soundtrack serves the changes of mood, sentimental variations and metamorphoses dear to this series which in its last episodes is adorned with a beautiful solemnity and a convincing political dimension. Revealing its nature as a magical fable about conquering feminism and the undefeated power of women, Nona and her daughters then reaches a scale to which the films of Valerie Donzelli did not always access. With its joyful interweaving of scientific reflections and timeless beliefs, the series ends up asserting aloud that society urgently needs to stop blaming women. By creating bridges between eras and generations to appeal to collective solidarity, this committed work thus vigorously defends a re-enchantment of love and the family, by means of images and sensations that serenely celebrate the insatiable thirst for freedom of its heroines.

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