Before seeing Comme des reines, you have to remove Marion Vernoux’s film from its public service bib. It is of course a film about the subject, in this case the prostitution of minors, and its initiators were guided by the desire to inform, to denounce. If the director and her performers accomplish these missions, they manage to do so by sparing didacticism, psychology, excess of empathy. Comme des reines depicts with chilling dryness and precision an atrocious and banal moment in the life of a very young girl.

Samia (Sarah Isabella) lives with her mother (Karole Rocher) and her eldest, a good student. At 15, Sarah does not like school. Pretty (she is reminiscent of a Mediterranean version of Reese Witherspoon), she easily finds the way to parties attended by her elders, who pay no heed to her young age. There she meets Louise (Nina Louise) and Jessica (Bintou Ba), who have left their family for the “protection” of a young and handsome pimp, Nico (Idir Azougli, who we saw in the feature film Shéhérazade, in 2018, which dealt, on a completely different register, with the same subject). He promised Louise that they would soon move into a nice house by the sea.

aura of despair

The three performers, all beginners, each embody in their own way the mixture of omniscience and blindness of a generation that discovered the world through the Internet. They know everything about their condition, their place in the circulation of goods (their bodies), but naively believe in the possibility of escaping the trap that is set for them before their very eyes. Scenario and staging resolutely turn their backs on the imagery of the girl put on the pavement which irrigates French fiction, from Fantine to Shéhérazade via Helmet of gold. It is a risk, because it must be admitted that the trio inspires more exasperation than compassion.

When the gaze moves away from the daily life of young women and their pimp, made up of flashes of flashy luxury and moments of boredom (but in this case, encased in its TV movie garb, the story runs out of time to deploy), we follow the efforts of Samia’s mother and Louise’s parents (Bernard Campan and Nathalie Richard) to bring their daughters back to the fold. Neither love, nor reason, nor the police succeed, and this impotence surrounds the story with an aura of despair.

In its last sequences, the rhythm gets carried away, not so much to circulate the adrenaline as because it is necessary to close it, this story. Here again, Comme des reines stays away, both from the comforting conclusion and from the tragic excess.