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André Téchiné My New Friends Les gens d’à côté Review


My New Friends (Les gens d’à côté) | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

My New Friends (Les gens d’à côté) | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Your Friends & Neighbors: Téchiné Tries for Ethical Sentiments

Now in his eighties, director André Téchiné continues his steady, perennial output with the humanist melodrama My New Friends. Though its English language feels a bit trite, the original French language Les gens d’à côté, which translates to People Next Door, better suggests the murkier sympathies derived through the inescapable propinquity of neighbors. Notably, the film is a reunion long time coming between Téchiné and his star Isabelle Huppert, who last worked together on 1979’s The Bronte Sisters, where she starred as Anne, opposite Isabelle Adjani and Marie-France Pisier. Although its premise is an intriguing look at clashing contemporary attitudes between law enforcement and a younger generation’s anarchist resistance to an increased police state, Téchiné’s simplistic approach often feels a tad out of touch, even superficial despite a trio of talented French actors.

Lucie (Huppert), a police forensics specialist, has just returned to work, relegated to a desk job, despite the concerns of her commanding officer. Her husband Slimane, who was also on the police force, committed suicide recently due to fall out from an emotionally charged situation at work. And Lucie’s attitudes to her current profession may have been compromised, it would seem. As it so happens, a new couple moves in next door to her cozy subdivision. Right away, Lucie bonds with their young daughter, Rose (Romane Meunier). She also takes an immediate liking to her mother, Julia (Hafsia Herzi). But she notices something strange regarding Yann (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) when it seems he’s unable to attend his own art exhibition. Learning he’s under house arrest due to firing rubber bullets at police officers during a protest, she decides to keep the exact nature of her occupation a secret. Despite her wariness of Yann, she’s eventually lured into further compromising her own ethics to assist him under the guise of protecting Rose.

André Téchiné My New Friends Les gens d’à côté Review

There’s a slight ghost story element to My New Friends, which finds Lucie being visited by her suicided husband, Slimane. It’s comparable to another recent Huppert title, Sidonie in Japan (2023), where she plays an author on a book tour haunted by her dead spouse. Likewise, it’s an interesting companion piece to other recent films which tapped Huppert as a law enforcement official of some sort, such as the insanely delightful Tip Top (2013) and the breezy crime comedy Mama Weed (2020). In Huppert’s expansive filmography, so rarely has she played a somewhat normal, working class character such as Lucie, a woman whose actual struggle resides in the reconciliation of her own ideals. The relationship with Slimane and her brother-in-law, who is also a member of law enforcement, provides a tangential undercurrent regarding the internal struggles of their occupation, where often the most difficult reality resides within navigating a rigid system devoid of emotional support.

Téchiné’s script, co-written by Regis de Martrin-Donos (who previously scripted the director’s 2014 title In the Name of My Daughter, as well as 2016’s Being 17) cuts some considerable corners, however. Huppert provides ersatz narration meant to reflect her emotional interiority and reckoning, but these moments often feel tacked on as a passive shortcut. Likewise, Lucie’s almost immediate kinship to Rose seems to come out of nowhere, instead of fleshing out how her eternal loneliness might explain such vehemence for the child’s wellbeing.

As Julia, Hafsia Herzi (who is also starring alongside Huppert in Patricia Mazuy’s next film arriving later this year, Les Prisonnieres) is given little to work with in the script outside voicing scant concern for Yann’s actions. As an artist cum counter culture revolutionary, Nahuel Perez Biscayart similarly feels miscast, and we’re never really led to understand what exactly he aims to accomplish. In essence, Téchiné is recycling conflicts he recently explored with a trio of characters in Farewell to the Night (2019), in which his usual muse, Catherine Deneuve, navigates similar tragic territories with her radicalized grandson Kacey Mottet Klein and his girlfriend, Oulaya Amamra. Still, for fans of Huppert, who taps into a physicality we rarely get to see as an avid jogger and homegrown horticulturist, My New Friends has its subtle bits of delight.

Reviewed on February 19th at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Panorama section. 85 mins.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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