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Paloma Sermon-Daï It’s Raining In The House Review

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Il pleut dans la maison (It’s Raining in the House) | 2023 Cannes Film Festival Review

Il pleut dans la maison (It’s Raining in the House) | 2023 Cannes Film Festival Review

Baby the Rain Must Fall: Life Imitates Art in Serman-Daï’s Narrative Debut

It's Raining in the House Movie ReviewThere’s a literalness in It’s Raining In The House (Il pleut dans la maison) within the film’s opening moments which highlights her narrative approach. A mixture of reverence gleaned from her own reality, Paloma Serman-Daï’s method feels more akin to something like hyperrealism, or auto-fiction, giving us an actual stream of rain transgressing the roof of the ramshackle apartment inhabited by its main characters. Following her 2020 documentary Petit Samedi, which charted her brother’s struggle with addiction, she casts her real half-brother and sister in her narrative debut which charts one transitional summer as they’re thrust prematurely into adulthood. Serman-Daï’s latest favors a narrative restraint, a coming of age film which plays more like a low-key character study littered with familial issues and children struggling with class issues they cannot articulate, not terribly far removed from the stark climes of someone like Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel.

With school ending for the summer, Purdey (Purdey Lombet) and Mackenzy (Mackenzy Lombet) seem poised to enjoy the sweltering season in their Belgian tourist lake town. They share some similar friends and interests, but Purdey is on the verge of turning eighteen and is aware she must do something to get out of her dysfunctional family home and take her brother with her. Their mother seems to be involved in her own detached self-destruction, constantly absent from their lives while apparently being their only parental figure. As Purdey takes a student job working as a cleaner at a hotel, Mackenzy makes money by stealing from tourists and selling their belongings. As the summer drifts on, Purdey’s best laid plans seem just beyond the possibility of fruition.

All that glitters isn’t gold, as Purdey more or less explains to a friend who wishes they also had an absentee parent, because her neglectful mother has made life more difficult than not. We learn little about their mom, disappearing for days or weeks on end, arriving home in rough shape, sometimes hungover, maybe strung out. She exhibits affection, not allowing her children to drink at home with her (but certainly smoking cigarettes has been a toxic bonding experience). Between brother and sister Purdey begins to pull focus, on the verge of turning eighteen and taking it upon herself to provide parental support to her younger brother, attempting to find an apartment they could move into on her (barely) part-time salary as a cleaner.

Purdey has decided to forego pursuing nursing school just so she can stand on her own two feet with her brother, who’s still preoccupied with frivolity and video games, more easily forgiving of his mother and a home he’s not interested in leaving behind. In turn, their mother seems to favor her ‘growing boy’ whenever she bothers to come home, though her presence is an obvious disruption to the siblings’ own unstable rhythm. Neither of them really want to go home when their mother comes home laid up for days before disappearing again.

Tellingly, there’s no actual ‘room’ for Purdey, forced to sleep on a couch or share her brother’s bed when the roof leaks, and It’s Raining In The House reveals itself to be about a young woman taking her first steps to find herself and her own space. As she wearily explores a rental apartment with a realtor, it’s clear her naïveté is still stubbornly intact. While Serman-Daï may not be presenting a despairing portrait, neither is she offering a hopeful one, perhaps suggesting with her title a larger metaphor for the reality of the working class.

Reviewed on May 19th at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival – Critics’ Week. 80 Mins.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com'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), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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