[Screen It]


(1999) (Elodie Bouchez, Natacha Régnier) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
*Moderate None Extreme Minor Minor
Mild None None None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Extreme Extreme Minor Moderate Mild

Subtitled Drama: Two homeless young strangers, who become fast and close friends, begin to drift apart as changes in their lives affect the way they look at the world and each other.
Isa (ELODIE BOUCHEZ) is a twenty-one-year-old drifter who arrives in Lille, France looking for a friend who has left town. Broke and with no place to stay, Isa tries selling homemade cards on the street, but gets lucky when a potential customer offers her a sewing job at a garment plant.

While the job doesn't work out, Isa does meet Marie (NATACHA RÉGNIER), another young woman with a chip on her shoulder and a stiff arm to keep anyone from getting too close to her. As such, she reluctantly allows Isa to stay with her in a flat owned by a mother and daughter who were in a bad car accident. While the mother died of her injuries, the daughter, Sandrine, is in a coma.

Isa and Marie soon become best friends, and while trying to pick up some men, they meet local bouncers Fredo (JO PRESTIA) and Charly (PATRICK MERCADO). Although the four don't initially get along, they quickly begin hanging out and Marie and Charly delve into a sexual relationship.

Meanwhile, Isa has discovered Sandrine's diary, and drawn by what the girl has written and the hand that fate has dealt her, becomes intrigued by the young girl and starts visiting her at the hospital posing as her friend. At the same time, Marie meets Chriss (GRÉGOIRE COLIN), the playboy owner of a local club who seduces Marie and eventually melts her heart.

As the two women spend less time together, they begin to drift apart, especially since Marie can't understand Isa's fascination with the comatose girl while Isa can't believe that her flatmate is cheating on Charly and doesn't recognize that Chriss is only using her for sex.

It's not very likely.
For some strong sexuality.
  • ELODIE BOUCHEZ plays a young and optimistic drifter who befriends Marie and regularly visits a comatose patient she doesn't really know. She does smoke a great deal and may smoke a joint in one scene.
  • NATACHA RÉGNIER plays a moody and somewhat caustically unhappy woman who has sex with several men during the movie and ends up taking drastic measures when her heart gets broken. She also smokes (including a possible joint) and cusses.
  • GRÉGOIRE COLIN plays a bar/club owner who goes out with Marie just for sex and then dumps her when he tires of her company.
  • JO PRESTIA and PATRICK MERCADO play two bouncers who befriend the women with the latter entering a sexual relationship with Marie.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Upon hearing the title of the slowly mesmerizing French film, "The Dreamlife of Angels," one is apt to think of any number of Heaven-related pictures such as last year's "City of Angels" or "What Dreams May Come." Having just seen this perfectly cast and superbly acted film, I still haven't a clue about its title, but a more accurate one might be "Bad Dreams of the Poor."

    An occasionally haphazard and structurally disjointed tale that's initially pace-impaired, but ultimately successful at luring the audience into its story -- perhaps that's the "dream" part -- the film isn't for everyone's tastes and its tempo -- or lack thereof -- may challenge those who favor more spry affairs.

    Yet, despite that, the English subtitles (that turn the film into a reading chore instead of a visually told medium), the fact that it's slow to present much of anything interesting and ends with two poorly executed scenes, I surprisingly found myself being drawn ever deeper into the story, and especially its characters, as the story continued to unfold.

    Having made its way through the international theatrical circuit, the film has been racking up many nominations and awards -- particularly for its two outstanding leads who shared the Best Actress Award at last year's Cannes Film Festival -- and for good reason.

    While Elodie Bouchez ("Wild Reeds") and Natacha Régnier (the upcoming "Time to Love") clearly aren't household names stateside and their lower class characters here are initially neither attractive nor particularly likeable -- which usually constitutes a stake through the heart for evoking audience empathy -- these fine actresses play them with such verisimilitude that one can't help but be drawn to them.

    Like people you've probably met at a party or any other social gathering and didn't particularly like -- mainly due to them being strangers and the matter of judging a book by its cover -- but then later changed your mind once you knew them better, these characters get under your skin and cause you to experience and care about their lives -- including both the good and bad parts -- with them.

    Although that effect is slow to develop, and you might never really like the characters -- particularly the usually caustic Marie -- you'll begin to develop interest and hope for them as much as Isa does for the comatose girl.

    As such, director Erick Zonca (making his feature film debut) and co-screenwriter Roger Bohbot do an exemplary job of taking rather woeful and haggard subject matter and characters and making them quite interesting. Some missteps are present, however, in that the film is often haphazardly constructed and edited, with scenes often abruptly starting and stopping without much regard to the film's overall pace and tone.

    In addition, two poorly executed events occur late in the film that if handled more properly, might not have seemed quite so jarring. While one is somewhat of a logical extension of events preceding it, the event -- which we won't give away here -- comes off more as a contrived way to wrap up the story.

    The other event, which is described but fortunately not seen, similarly ties up some loose ends to give the story at least a semblance of a happy ending. It comes so far out of the blue and feels so ridiculous, however, that is nearly derails all that came before it.

    Nonetheless, and despite that fact that nothing spectacular ever happens, you'll probably find yourself getting drawn into the story and the characters due to the strong performances and Zonca's ability to subtly manipulate the audience into caring for them. Although not anywhere near being a perfect film, its mesmerizing qualities make it worth checking out. We give "The Dreamlife of Angels" a 6 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated, subtitled drama. Several sexual encounters that show both nudity and brief, but graphic movement and related sounds give that category an extreme rating. Some sexual talk and nonsexual nudity also occur.

    Profanity consists of at least 12 "s" words and other words and phrases (all in English subtitles). The two lead characters smoke throughout the film, and appear to share a joint on the job when they meet for the first time (although it's difficult to be certain). Some drinking also occurs.

    A character commits suicide, some minor scuffles break out, and several characters exhibit bad attitudes that include using people just for sex and simply being overall disagreeable and caustic to others. Other thematic elements involve a young comatose girl.

    While it's not very likely that many kids will want to see this film, should you be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home, you might want to take a closer look at the content we've listed.

  • This category gets a "moderate" due to possible drug use listed below.
  • A man who offers Isa a job has a glass of wine.
  • Marie smokes what appears to be a joint and then shares it with Isa in a bathroom on their work break (it's not clear if that's what it is).
  • Some people outside a club drink.
  • Isa and Marie have drinks in front of them in a bar/club.
  • We see some prominently placed bottles of rum in Chriss' club.
  • People have drinks in a club.
  • We see Isa rolling what looks like a joint (although it could be a homemade cigarette).
  • Chriss drinks what looks like a beer.
  • None.
  • Marie has a surly and occasionally mean attitude toward others, and calls Charly "fatty."
  • Some may see Isa as having some of both for snooping around and reading the young girl's diary.
  • Marie tries to shoplift a coat by wearing it out of the store, but is stopped (although Chriss, who doesn't yet know her, comes to her defense and pays for the coat -- for which she's still ungrateful).
  • Chriss has both toward Marie as he uses her just for sex (including their first encounter where he tells her he has to go into the city and asks if she wants to come along, and it turns out he takes her to a hotel where he gets a room for them).
  • A woman with Chriss says that he's not too choosy (about and thus insulting Marie).
  • A character walks into a room just in time to see another jump from the window ledge to their death on the pavement below (no gore and the impact is not seen).
  • Knife: Found by Isa under a mattress and Marie later briefly uses another one to threaten Isa during a fight.
  • Phrases (in English subtitles): "Screw" (sexual), "Bitch" (woman to woman), "Chick" (for woman), "Jerk" and "Screwed up."
  • Marie twice gives people the "f you" sign with her arms, once including "the finger."
  • Marie tries to shoplift a coat by wearing it out of the store, but is stopped.
  • A character commits suicide by jumping from a window.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Trying out for a Hollywood theme restaurant, Isa does her best Madonna impersonation and sings, "Like a virgin...touched for the very first time..."
  • (In English subtitles): At least 12 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals ("willy"), 6 asses (1 used with "hole"), 1 hell and 5 uses of "Christ" and 1 use of "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • One of the women makes a comment about one of the male bouncers having "to jump" (have sex with) another male bouncer (it's not true).
  • Isa talks to Marie about "jumping on" some guy and then says "bam" (implying that she may have had sex with him). Marie then says that he slept with her because she was available.
  • Isa says to Marie (about Charly), "I didn't think you'd screw him," causing Marie to reply, "I didn't screw him."
  • Isa shows Marie some cards given to her by a painter, one of which seems to show female full frontal nudity (but is a drawing/painting and is seen from a distance on a small card).
  • We see Isa's bra and some cleavage as she wears a tank-top.
  • As Isa reads through the girl's diary, she reads a passage that states "...and a willy (penis) in the shape of..." (but we don't see the rest of the passage). It then goes on to say (about her mother), "She'll bring him here and they'll screw" and then comments that if she puts a knife under her mother's mattress "he won't be able to get an erection."
  • Trying out for a Hollywood theme restaurant, Isa does her best Madonna impersonation and sings, "Like a virgin...touched for the very first time..."
  • We see Marie in bed with Charly and see him fondling her bare breasts, but they don't do anything else but talk including them briefly commenting on her "screwing around" with guys, with her saying that she didn't expect to end up in their beds.
  • The next day Marie asks Isa, "Did you sleep with Fredo," and Isa shakes her head negatively.
  • Chriss gets a hotel room for him and Marie and once there, mildly pushes her to the bed and then pushes her shirt up, caressing her breasts. It's implied that they have sex.
  • We might see some brief partial nudity as Isa puts on some tights while dressing up in a promotional outfit.
  • Chriss and Isa have sex again in a scene where she either seems that she doesn't want to have sex, or is acting rough and aggressively toward him (with him on top and glimpses of her bare breasts). We then see subtitles where one of them says "I'm screwing you." "Do you want me to screw you?" "Gently." As we then hear lots of heavy breathing and associated sounds, we see a full length shot of him (and his bare butt) between her spread legs with graphic movement and more shots of her bare breasts.
  • Later, Marie tells Isa, "I screwed that guy, Chriss."
  • As Marie tells Chriss "I have to work. I'm not into screwing in a hotel," he grabs her, they passionately kiss and it's implied that they have sex again. We later see them in bed with him asleep and her sitting up in bed where we see a glimpse of her bare breast.
  • As Marie talks to Isa, she stands in front of her topless and we see at least half a minute of her bare breasts.
  • Both Isa and Marie smoke more than ten times, while Chriss does so a few times and other background characters also smoke.
  • A person at the hospital tells Isa that Sandrine's mother died a few days after the car accident (not seen).
  • Marie mentions that her father is a jerk and doesn't like him, while Isa says that her parents split up after just one year together.
  • What makes people like Marie so surly, caustic and unhappy.
  • People who are in comas.
  • Suicide.
  • Casual sex.
  • We hear that Marie hit some man so hard in the past that he required stitches and that she also scratched up his car.
  • After Chriss initially turns down Isa and Marie flirtatious advances, Marie kicks and breaks his truck's taillight.
  • Chriss tries to force a kiss on Marie causing her to throw a glass of water in his face.
  • Marie attacks a woman who indirectly insulted her and has to be pulled away by Chriss.
  • Isa and Marie briefly struggle and push each other at their front door as Isa tries to prevent Marie from leaving.
  • Isa slaps Chriss for treating Marie poorly.
  • Isa throws a cigarette that hits Marie in the face. Later, Isa slaps Marie, and the two get into a brief fight that ends when Marie pulls a kitchen knife on Isa.
  • A character commits suicide by jumping from a window to the pavement below.

  • Reviewed May 3, 1999 / Posted May 7, 1999

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