Le bonheur d'Elza (Elza) (2012)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Bernadette, a single mother in Paris, tries to provide her daughters with everything. She is thrilled when her eldest daughter, Elza, is the first in the family to graduate from college earning a master's degree summa cum laude. But Elza breaks her mother's heart by running away to their native Guadeloupe in search of a distant childhood memory: the father she barely remembers.
Documentary , Drama
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Critic Reviews for Le bonheur d'Elza (Elza)

All Critics (4) | Top Critics (1)

Bathed in the flamingo colors and Caribbean rhythms of its location, this deeply personal debut from the writer and director Mariette Monpierre develops with a lingering attention to sensation and sound.

November 29, 2012
New York Times
Top Critic

Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child. Monpierre, the first Guadeloupe woman director, projects her personal journey searching for her absentee father on this emotionally unfocused drama. In effect diminishing how single mothers struggle and prevail.

Full Review… | January 5, 2013
WBAI Radio

There is matchless beauty here in both the actors and the setting, but this study of family and race needed a surer auteurial hand.

Full Review… | November 29, 2012
Film Journal International

Capitalizes on a vibrant tropical location and a cast of capable, but the narrative makes disconcerting leaps from the poignant to the distractingly soap-operatic.

Full Review… | November 26, 2012
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for Le bonheur d'Elza (Elza)

Directed and co-written by Mariette Monpierre, Elza (also known as Le bounheur d'Elza) is notable for being the first narrative film by a female Guadeloupean director. The film is a semi-autobiographical independent drama about a young French woman and her search to find her estranged father in Guadaloupe. However, despite the promise of a highly personal, beautifully shot film about love and family, the film has all of the earmarks of a novice auteur; from pacing issues to an arc that never totally satisfies its audience, Elza is an unfortunate miss for the fledgling director. Just before our screening, Dawn Fulton from Smith College in Northampton, MA, a professor who specializes in the study of French cinema and Caribbean studies, spoke to the audience. She talked about the challenges that directors, artists, and authors from the islands face in balancing the natural beauty of a place like Guadaloupe with the sometimes harsh realities of living there. She went on to state that Monpierre had somehow managed to successfully weave these two disparate elements together with Elza. Regrettably, I find myself disagreeing with this sentiment. Monpierre's reluctance to make any sort of social commentary is far less problematic than the story, however. The idea of a woman returning to her homeland to find her father sounds perfectly ripe for exploration, but Monpierre makes the strange decision to permeate the film with spots of hokey melodrama. In one particularly hammy scene, several members of the Désiré family (including Elza's adulterous father and brother-in-law) are sitting in church. Like clockwork, the preacher launches into a heavy-handed sermon on the dangers and immorality of infidelity. The lack of subtlety in this sequence is representative of the film itself. For example, many of these on-the-nose scenes are accentuated by a strangely-placed piano piece that seems like it'd be much more at home in a daytime soap opera than a serious drama. These conceits culminate in the movie's final moments, where Monpierre deviates from the real-world story to tell a schmaltzy, wish-fulfillment ending about her father that makes very little sense in the context of the narrative. Elza is not a total loss. As aforementioned, the scenery is bright and colorful (one of the biggest advantages of shooting on location) with an island-themed soundtrack to match, and the acting is almost completely sound. Specifically, Stana Roumillac does a good job portraying Elza's emotional turmoil as the film comes to its conclusion. Eva Constant, playing Elza's very young niece Caroline, shows a lot of promise as an actress at just 10 years old. And, unsurprisingly, Monpierre did manage to accurately capture island life; from a drum dance session on the beach to intense games of dominoes, her Guadaloupean kin are given ample chance to show off the vibrant cultural aspects of the region. It pains me to say that Elza was disappointing, because the film was certainly made in ernest. Perhaps it is Monpierre's general lack of experience with narrative storytelling, her previous films having been documentaries, but the movie just doesn't have that ring of truth or believability present in most autobiopics. The detrimental choices she made as a filmmaker and as a writer by overdramatizing her tale ended up doing her a disservice, giving the movie a distinctly made-for-television feel. Perhaps Monpierre will get it right next time, but for now I think I'll stick with that other, much better movie (http://bit.ly/1ey85Av ) that explored a father-daughter relationship with significantly more incisive language and emotional kick. Verdict: Movie Meh RT Score: 60% (65%) Link to Full Review: http://bit.ly/11xctPm ~ Søren

Soren Hough
Soren Hough

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