A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that To Each, Her Own is a French comedy with subtitles about a young professional woman in a long-term relationship with another woman. Still closeted to her family and finding herself attracted to a man, she's confused and despairing. A series of farcical adventures help her come to terms with both her sexual orientation and her role as a woman independent from the traditions that have been thrust upon her. Sexual situations occur throughout the film. Characters kiss, disrobe (breasts are exposed), and engage in implied oral sex and off-camera sexual intercourse. Sex moves the central thread of the story. Racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and overbearing parents fully impact the romantic relationships as well. Audiences can expect multiple stereotypical characters and behavior (e.g., gays, lesbians, a large Jewish family, online dating). Swearing and obscenities are used, including "f--k," "s--t," "piss," "crap," "screw," and "dyke." Alcohol is consumed in numerous scenes; in one, the heroine gets drunk. Young adults roll joints and smoke marijuana.
What's the story?
Simone Benloulou (Sarah Stern) is in love with Claire (Julia Piaton) in TO EACH, HER OWN. They have a long-term relationship and have built a nice life together. Unfortunately, Simone hasn't had the courage to tell her observant Jewish family about either her sexual orientation or Claire. Because of that, her overbearing mother (Caroline Jacob) never stops nagging her about finding "the one," providing he's Jewish and suitable. Simone's inaction is getting her down, and she feels more confused and distracted when she finds herself attracted to Wali (Jean-Christophe Folly), a talented Senegalese chef. Is she a lesbian? Is she "bi"? A coward? She's further challenged by events that cause her to doubt herself even more severely: an approaching family wedding, an inevitable "fix-up" by her brother, a romantic encounter with Wali, and finally Claire's discovery of Simone's true state of mind.
Is it any good?
Too many themes, characters, and storylines distract from the emotional journey of the heroine until nothing is left but a spirited pace, some funny moments, and a shallow resolution. There are many caricatures -- gays, lesbians, Jewish families, newly assimilated African citizens, arrogant business types -- in To Each, Her Own. That, along with unabashedly racist and homophobic situations that are meant to be funny but often just feel grating, seems to have defeated what might have been an enjoyable film. As it is, it's hard to keep track of the couple who met online, the couple who are about to be married, the gay couple struggling for acceptance, let alone the adventures of Simone and Claire ... and Wali. Prepare to be confused, especially with the sudden ending, which comes out of left field.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the value of watching movies from non-English-speaking cultures. What new information about today's France and its people did you take away from To Each, Her Own? Do such experiences reinforce your feelings about the commonality of the human condition? In what ways?
How could communication skills have helped Sarah negotiate her journey? Why is it important to develop solid communication skills?
Is it possible that when filmmakers include multiple storylines and characters, both the events and the people involved are less complex and interesting? Which characters, if any, are stereotypes in this movie?
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