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Reines d’un Jour (Hell of a Day) | Review

Queen of Broken Hearts

Characters are sometimes fun and sometimes dull to watch.

There are days when getting up from bed is probably the biggest mistake you can make- especially when you’re typical lunch time break makes you lose your job and your midnight snack is having your girlfriend/wife cheat on you. Director Marion Vernoux’s newest (official selection at the 2001 Cannes Film festival) oeuvre is what happens when an incident becomes an accident and then repeats itself more than once as life’s unsuspecting bumps sometimes come in a series of multiples. Under the singing of Brassen’s Le Vent- (The Wind), the film shows that ‘the wind’ of change can take place when you are most least likely to be prepared for it- the bouncing ball that puts this to motion is shown in a introduction-like montage of naughty adult behaviour-a set-up for the film with a paralleled narrative of 4 individuals who carry the ‘unlucky person’ tag on their foreheads.

Reines d’un Jour is about the losers in life magnified by the female protagonist of the film -Karin Viard (Embrassez qui vous voudrez) the queen of f*ck-ups who deals with her failing marriage just like most Parisians do-with an adulterous affair. The other three come in the form of bus-driver whose wife leaves him while driving on his route, about a photographer who resembles more of a speed bump than an actual person and about a man in his final stages of life who regrets the things he has and hasn’t done in his life. Displayed in their insecurities-they chug a couple of beers, shave half of their faces off and become neurotic about cell phone calls. They are the junk of society, sinking into deeper depths of hopelessness and Vernoux hurls them all together in the same basket with car-collisions, apartment buildings face-offs and restaurant assaults. The narrative uses the 24 hour of occurrences device combined with the ‘coincidence factor’ where the film puts together a cast of characters basically running into one another showing us how shameless they all are. You’ll like seeing this characters struggling to keep their heads above water (as demonstrated in the water sequence) and stop the downpour of bad luck foreshadowed by a pair of ruined fishnet stockings. Following in the same cinematic theme is a nice split screen showing the person with the worst fate at the bottom of the screen and the person who might get off lucky at the top of the screen, but I wonder what was the use of the camera tricks such as replacing sound for voice-over for the protagonist, the running of the film at high-speed for the younger female character or the use of camera-still flashbacks for the older man which as a whole don’t have any practical purposes for the film besides being fun little film techniques.

What I liked about the characters in this film like in most French films is that the people don’t have the attractive traits or for that matter their faces with the exclusion of the channel girls are not eye-catching like Hollywood’s a-list. But the heavyweights of the current French cinema like Reno, Gainsbourg, Cassel and Gérard Depardieu are more about character impressions than facial chemistry. Reines d’un Jour a.k.a the English title : Hell of a Day is a nice character study in the same sort of way Magnolia was with the snippets suggesting that more than one person can find themselves in the same predicament. I was drawn to the film because of the performances but I was turned off by the fact that I felt more like an on-looker- never being fully engaged and sympathetic towards the film and/or the characters feeling that sometimes the episodes were somewhat trivialized and characterized. Good film, but I’ve seen better.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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