Alex Heeney reviews the film, En roue libre (Freestyle), an absurd French buddy comedy about a woman who can’t leave her car and the young man who hijacks it. En roue libre (Freestyle) is the first feature from writer-director Didier Barcelo.
En roue libre (Freestyle) recently screened at Montreal’s Cinemania Film Festival, where Benjamin Voisin was a guest. The film will screen on November 14 at Cinefranco in Toronto.
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Writer-director Didier Barcelo’s first feature film, En roue libre (Freestyle), is the kind of wacky comedy that only the French make. The premise is light-hearted and absurd but still grounded in the human need for connection. And the actors are so charismatic and great that it pretty much doesn’t matter what happens. On the verge of her fortieth birthday, Louise (Marina Foïs) unexpectedly falls into a midlife crisis. This manifests as an inability to get out of her car.
After spending hours trapped in her vehicle, she, of course, has the seemingly poor luck of having her car hijacked by an angry, grieving young man, Paul (rising star Benjamin Voisin). He’s intent on a road trip in an ill-advised attempt to deal with his brother’s recent death. Since she won’t or can’t leave the car, they unsurprisingly embark on the trip together.
An odd couple comedy
Predictably, this odd couple find comfort in each other’s company. They help each other deal with their current existential crises, not unlike Grégory Magne’s Perfumes. A surrogate mother-son relationship forms. Paul has indifferent parents, and Louise is divorced with a grown son who has moved away and lost interest.
But Didier Barcelo’s film takes place in a very silly, heightened reality (think Trouble with You). Seemingly dangerous situations or possibilities for violence always end up low stakes and cheery. Accordingly, the film’s hijinks involve kidnapping a psychiatrist (who might actually be a gastroenterologist) to help Louise sort through her problems and cutting a hole in Louise’s car for a future sunroof to give her access to the fresh air.
Benjamin Voisin, who stars in the film Freestyle (En roue libre) is one of Seventh Row’s screen stars of tomorrow
Find out why we picked Benjamin Voisin as an actor to watch.
Our interest in the film’s ridiculous events relies on the two superfluous central performances. We have to come to love these two eccentric characters and their relationship to willingly suspend our disbelief. Foïs has plenty of experience in this terrain. She was excellent as a concert pianist whose husband surreptitiously impregnates her in Énorme (2019). Her Louise is believably fragile and scared. But she feels lost enough to go along with what Paul wants. Her loneliness and desire to play a caring role makes her otherwise ill-advised choices at least make sense.
By contrast, the absurdist comedy of En roue libre (Freestyle) feels like a new challenge for Benjamin Voisin. This isn’t his first performance in a heightened mode. He starred in the 19th-century-set satire Lost Illusions. He’s also been the object of desire in Summer of ‘85 and the friendly ghost in Man Up. But in the past, he’s either been the naif (Lost Illusions and Proud) or the seemingly wise older teenager. Here, Voisin’s physicality is rough and loose. He is believably scary as a possibly dangerous criminal. But he is vulnerable enough that Louise ends up caring for him and puts up with him. Voisin is a shapeshifter. In En roue libre (Freestyle), his shaved head, scruff, and gaunt face, give him a new physique. He is unrecognizable from the ‘80s icon of Summer of ‘85 or the trembling, newly out teenager in Proud.