Sexuality and gender beam fluorescent pink in François Ozon’s playful adaptation of Ruth Rendell’s short story, ‘The New Girlfriend’. Romain Duris plays David, who after the death of his wife is left to raise their baby alone. His wife’s best friend, Claire (Anaïs Demoustier), lives in the same nouveau-riche neighbourhood and takes it upon herself to help David with the baby while he grieves.
Death breaks a chain in David and a new pleasure is released. Within the solitude of his pristine interiors, shiny kitchen and expansive wardrobes, David embraces his liberty, and explores his femininity. Claire discovers his new interest, and after her initial shock, she reconfigures her reaction and the two work together to protect David’s identity and improve his ‘style’.
In David’s freedom, Claire finds, in part, the comfort of her deceased best friend, as well as experiencing an indefinable attraction. Duris and Demoustier are clear and intelligent in their performances. Their connection is as sweet as two children playing in the attic, their complicity protecting each other in their grief and newfound territory.
Throughout, Ozon ensures interpretation of gender and sexuality is mercurial, never fixed, but no less profound. He directs in a light raincoat, keeping every frame fresh and spring-like, so they are as much a gift of new life, ready for exploration, as David is as the ‘new girlfriend’.