A young woman encounters a strange, mechanical companion at a local amusement park in writer-director Zoé Wittcock’s phantasmagoria debut.
Noémie Merlant is all the rage at the moment. One of the stars of Portrait of a Lady on Fire is appearing in Cannes competitor Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District, is also premiering her own film there (Mi Iubita Mon Amour, which also she wrote and stars in), and is the magnetic epicentre of this modern-day fable.
Merlant plays Jeanne, the young janitor at an amusement park, whose shyness finds her keeping to herself, preferring the company of the various rides she maintains than any humans – although her mother maintains a thorny presence in her life. In particular, Jeanne is attached to Jumbo, a popular ride which, when the park is closed, communicates to Jeanne through an array of coloured lights, creaks and whines.
From this premise, Wittock’s film conjures up an oddball romance that, with a nod to Steven Spielberg at his most magical, whisks us away into a world of grounded fantasy. Merlant is fabulous and the film casts quite a spell. It’s the most unlikely romance you’ll see all year.