Catherine Breillat earned a reputation as one of France's most confrontational directors after the explicit sexual imagery of "Romance" in 1999. So it's a surprise to find her new movie "A Ma Soeur!" returning to the more conventional territory of her debut feature "Une Vraie Jeune Fille" (1975), being another foray into the world of adolescent sexuality.
15-year-old Elena (Mesquida) and her chubby 12-year-old sister Anaïs (Reboux) are spending a long hot summer on vacation with their parents. Bored to tears, Elena takes up with Fernando (de Rienzo), a handsome Italian law student. With Anaïs resentfully looking on, Elena and Fernando start dating, setting in motion a chain of events that lead to a climax as shocking as it is unexpected.
With little plot to speak of, "A Ma Soeur!" (which has been given the rather blunt English title of "Fat Girl") instead focuses on the siblings' confused yearnings, and their fumbling attempts to gratify them. Elena's pursuit of Fernando belongs to a dozen other teen romances. But what makes Breillat's drama so unsettling is the way that the sullen Anaïs comes to experience her own sexual awakening by proxy.
To reveal more would reduce the impact of the horrific finale. Suffice to say that Breillat has fashioned another characteristically raw and honest portrait of sexual relations which benefits hugely from the astonishing veracity of its two lead performances. Look out too for Arsinée Khanjian, making a rare appearance outside husband Atom Egoyan's films as the sisters' harassed mother.