Set in Picasso, a gritty, working class town in the north of France, The Worst Ones is a film-within-a-film. Belgian director Gabriel (Johan Heldenbergh) comes to the town to shoot a film, casting local teens and pre-teens as his main characters, just as the award winning directors (Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret) of this film have done. The film concentrates mainly on four of them, Lily (Mallory Manecque), Ryan (Timéo Mahault), Jessy (Loïc Pech) and Maylis (Melina Vanderplancke), and as non-professional actors, they are pretty phenomenal! The reason to see this darkly humorous flick is for the engaging story of these young people whose lives are changed just for a time by this experience.
You’re never quite sure what the film is they are shooting, though you know its title: Pissing in the North Wind, and that it’s about a pregnant teen and a boy with anger issues. The kids and the community question why Gabriel is coming to shoot in their little impoverished community. He could have shot anywhere, but as one of the kids mentions in the casting section, he was looking for the worst ones for his film. This comes up many times as locals are not all on board with the image he is showing the outer world of their lives. And they are right. It’s a question the filmmakers themselves ask about the kind of filmmaking they are doing here, looking themselves in the mirror.
But despite the ethical concerns about the film, it is by turns funny and sad and totally aggravating as you really start to feel for the kids. Lily lost her young brother to cancer and acted out sexually, labelling her forever the slut. Cute little Ryan is living with his sister because his mother can’t/won’t take care of him and he’s forever in trouble. Jessy is the macho teen with a very thin skin underneath. And Maylis is a lesbian just trying to make it through the day. Gabriel tries to be the adult in the room, giving them advice both for the film and their personal lives, some of it even helpful, when he’s not having a meltdown because he’s dealing with unprofessional actors.
This is one of those films that isn’t wrapped up with a nice bow at the end. It’s a character study and an inside-out look at how the film world looks at vulnerable people. And it’s entirely worth seeing. I recommend it to people who are into foreign indie flicks with great performances.
In French with subtitles. Opens in select cities March 24.