Director: Catherine Breillat
Starring: Anaïs Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero De Rienzo, Arsinée Khanjian
Duration: 83 min.
Twelve-year-old Anaïs is fat. Her older sister Elena is a teenage beauty. While on vacation with their parents, Anaïs tags along with Elena as she explores the dreary seaside town. Elena meets Fernando, an Italian law student, who seduces her with promises of love, and the ever-watchful Anaïs bears witness to the corruption of her sister’s innocence.
Fat Girl is a film written and directed by Catherine Breillat. It premiered at the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival, winning the Manfred Salzgeber Prize given to filmmakers who "broaden the boundaries of cinema". While this may not be as explicit as her previous outing Romance, it is a much more provocative and also far more coherent work, returning to a theme Breillat explored in her earlier films 1976's A Real Young Girl and 1988's 36 Filette, young adolescent sexuality.
It's the story of two virgin sisters, 12-year old Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) and 15-year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) on vacation on the coast of France. The sisters couldn't be anymore different, Anaïs is overweight, perpetually angry and very intelligent, whereas Elena is thin and pretty but unworldly. Despite their differences, they have a strong sisterly bond and their relationship has equal parts of affection and disdain.
The setup looks like pretty much like any other coming of age scenario, but Breillat's execution is what makes this a remarkable film. She presents an honest sibling dynamic and rivalry that many viewers will be able to relate to, while pushing the envelope way beyond our comfort zones. Serving up raw sexuality not in the titillating or exploitative way normally portrayed on film, but as a simple part of life that these characters are ill prepared for. The awkward situations are intelligently written and effective because they ring with disturbing truth and the two young inexperienced actresses are fantastic in very brave and difficult roles. Anaïs Reboux especially stands out and there is some irony in the fact that despite showing more talent, this is her only film credit, while prettier 'sister' Roxane Mesquida is currently a relatively successful actress.
The sudden shocking ending is what I have the most difficulty with. It's both brilliant and terrible at the same time, and I can't quite decide which. The events are so completely out of place with the rest of the film that it feels like a cheap trick, but can also be seen as the perfect symbolic exclamation point for Breillat's message. Either way, it is an unforgettable and thought provoking ending to the most accomplished film in her career.
— Bonjour Tristesse