A claustrophobic close-up of a body, the light bouncing off the skin of an unidentified figure. This is how the film introduces us to Marvin, an aspiring actor and someone whose work is directly influenced by his upbringing. Anne Fontaine’s coming out film has its feet planted both in Marvin’s past and his present. We’re instantly thrust into his childhood and school-life as he struggles with homophobia, sexual abuse and his dawning homosexuality in working class small-town, Vosges.
Desperate to flee his dysfunctional family and find somewhere he fits, Marvin, with the help of drama teacher Mme Clement (Catherine Mouchet) applies for drama school in Paris. There he meets influential and like-minded dramatist, Abel (Vincent Macaigne) before finding himself in a relationship with an older man and sat opposite Elizabeth Huppert, sharing stories of his childhood and his one-man play that he describes as the story about a “bad start”. Huppert takes an interest in his work, eager for it to become a reality.
Rising star, Finnegan Oldfield (Nocturama) plays twenty-something Marvin. Even with Isabelle Huppert in the role of herself, Oldfield steals the show here. His brooding and disorientated journey into adult life feels authentic and dizzying.
Despite Oldfield’s standout performance, Fontaine’s portrayal of Marvin’s home and school life as a child is by far the most compelling part of the narrative, disturbing and heart-wrenching but poignant and with great performances by Grégory Gadebois and Catherine Mouchet. It feels much more palpable and unaffected. The rich colours and textures juxtapose Marvin’s dire living situation with the rose-tint of recollection.
With the story spanning two crucial points in Marvin’s life, you’d expect a deeper connection with him as a character, something that the film doesn’t quite deliver. The emotion always seems at arm’s length and just out of reach. Running for just shy of two hours, the story starts to grow tired as it passes the half way line. Reinventing Marvin has something important to say, but it’s been said before and said louder and stronger by the likes of Blue is the Warmest Colour and Beautiful Thing, which means that Marvin’s message is drowned out and seems to dissipate into the ether of coming-out films.
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writers: Pierre Trividic (screenplay), Anne Fontaine (screenplay)
Stars: Finnegan Oldfield, Grégory Gadebois, Vincent Macaigne, Isabelle Huppert