Review: Other People’s Children

Written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, a childless woman forms a deep bond with her boyfriend’s young daughter. Starring: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Yamée Couture, Henri-Noël Tabary and Victor Lefebvre.

One of the problems when discussing film today is that people seem to have forgotten how films have value in abundant ways, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to perfectly serve a mood, to be the right film for the right moment. Cheesy action flicks, romcoms, slashers, all these types of films have their own unique value, it’s about how they entertain you and make you feel, not always specifically the quality to the direction, writing or otherwise in comparison to other films. You have to take something for what it is to appreciate it fully, which brings us to Other People’s Children. This is not a film about overly complex emotion, it’s about compassion, love and finding joys in life. Comparing it to an intense or complicated drama filled with endless layers would do it a great disservice, its heart is on its sleeve and that’s a wonderful thing.

While it may not sound like a compliment, though it sincerely is, Other People’s Children is like the adult equivalent of films like The Parent Trap. Not in style but in the warmth, satisfaction and pulling of the heartstrings that it gives you. Yes it is venturing into the world of sentimentality but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, when it’s done in the right way and that’s what Rebecca Zlotowski captures. Visually, it’s rich and colourful, you’d imagine it was going to be a much more hard hitting or emotionally draining story based off of the luxurious quality to the aesthetic. The direction, cinematography, lighting, sets, locations are all pretty much exactly what they need to be, they’re all hitting the right note, the only weakness is a tendency to fall deeply into sentimentality with its transitions. They’re a touch heavy handed and it’s a shame as it otherwise has the perfect handle on that romantic and sweet atmosphere.

Undeniably the heart of Other People’s Children is Virginie Efira’s performance as Rachel. She brings such a genuine kindness and generosity, holding such an open heart which is not a common find these days. Exploring a rather untold relationship, the step-parent is not typically one in cinema that gets spun in a hugely positive or sympathetic light. Within this performance, Efira shows the joy and pain of becoming a part of the life of someone else’s child. To love them but never truly be considered a part of the family, the work versus limited reward and the patience that requires. It brings to life an emotion which isn’t quite heart-breaking but it’s in the neighbourhood, it’s lighter than that but will dig deep into your sympathy bone. The rest of the cast are all brilliant as well but this feels like a stunning testament to the range and depth of Virginie Efira, especially in comparison to other roles she’s done in recent years like Benedetta.

Other People’s Children is a perfect addition to sweet, sentimental and cosy cinema. It has sincerity and depth but its core is also so filled with love and compassion. This sort of film is constantly underestimated but it’s heart-warming to watch and when you’re in the mood for it, it hits the spot with such satisfaction. Its led by a superb performance from Virginie Efira who does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of becoming a step-parent with all its ups and downs. Special mention also has to go to Callie Ferreira-Goncalves who gives an utterly adorable performance as Leila.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023
In UK Cinemas March 17

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