Thirteen-year-old Anne (Eleonore Klarwein) is navigating an exceedingly awkward stage as she enters the 1963-1964 school year in France. A solemn beauty but exceedingly gawky and unsure of herself, she confronts a world she doesn’t understand and even more important, one that doesn’t understand her. Her eccentric teachers seem to come from different planets, while her separated parents (Puterflam and Frejac) are completely self-involved. Even her older sister Frederique (Michel) is preoccupied with her first boyfriend, and can’t give Anne the attention she craves. Still, there are enough moments of fun and wonder to make Anne persevere and look ahead to better days when (undoubtedly) she’ll feel more confident and grown up.
Marking director Kurys’s feature film debut, this knowing, keenly observed coming-of-age tale is a subtle charmer, capturing the uncertain, tedious, often bewildering life stage known as early adolescence. The story feels so personal that we have to believe it’s drawn largely from Kurys’s early life. The film boasts a vivid sense of period, and Kurys draws out uniformly fine performances from her talented cast, particularly the juvenile leads; both Klarwein and Michel are delightful. Thankfully, all the schoolgirl angst is leavened with considerable heart and humor. We sense it will only get better for these sisters, and are grateful to be part of their journey. By all means, take a sip of “Peppermint Soda.”