Review: Rodeo

Written and directed by Lola Quivoron, co-written by Antonia Buresi who also stars in the film, Julia, a young misfit who is passionate about riding, meets a crew of dirt riders who fly along at full speed and perform stunts. She sets about infiltrating their male-dominated world, but an accident jeopardizes her ability to fit in. Starring: Julie Ledru, Yannis Lafki, Cody Schroeder, Louis Sotton, Junior Correia, Ahmed Hamdi and Dave Nsaman.

Julia’s (Julie Ledru) attempt to break into the world of dirt riding is yet another classic example of a woman trying to make it in a man’s world. It’s the typical story of being constantly underestimated and judged based on gender, rarely given the opportunity to show what they can do. Lola Quivoron and Antonia Buresi’s writing captures it so well that it’s genuinely frustrating to watch the constant insults and sexualisation. It strongly creates an aggressive, toxic male atmosphere, there’s always an edge of threat. However, interestingly the time that Julia spends around these riders in a heist like fashion, is the least engaging element of the story.

As Rodeo moves forward, it’s splitting itself in a few directions. Firstly, there’s that idea of breaking into a male-dominated arena, then there’s the element of criminality and lastly, friendship between women. It’s that friendship which completely opens up the emotion and feel of the film. The connection and compassion between Julia and Ophélie (Antonia Buresi) adds a bigger motivation and complexity. Without it, it’s rather simple because Lola Quivoron’s direction and Raphaël Vandenbussche’scinematography are playing more dramatic notes than they are heist and hustle. It’s a key problem for the film because it’s not committing to either the drama or action, which means it also doesn’t do justice to either.

It has something, there’s a lot of talent at work here but it’s struggling to get it to the finish line. Particularly when, as it does arrive at its ending, the choices don’t match the tone of the rest of the film. Julie Ledru does a great job of capturing that lone wolf learning to be part of a team journey. She keeps an interesting amount of mystery surrounding Julia, you can never quite tell how old she is and you never learn too much about her background. There’s a childlike quality to her, in her stubbornness and desperate urge to prove herself, yet she’s clearly capable and experienced. Antonia Buresi brings a superbly protective quality, she’s hyper aware of the dangers to the life they lead. It’s also great that when these two characters come together, they both begin to let down their walls. Yannis Lafki is another strong addition, he feels like the middle of two worlds, one of the few to treat Julia with respect but he knows where his bread is buttered, and holds onto some of that criminal coldness.

Rodeo is part way between a heist film and a drama about struggle and misogyny. The problem is, the two don’t always work in tandem and it feels as though it needed to commit fully to one or the other to make it work more effectively. It’s shot well, with great movement and energy, it adds some darkness but it’s not too heavy and it’s got a good amount of grit. With the amount of time it does spend on the bikes, it may particularly appeal to people with an active interest but not so much that it alienates anyone else. It has a great deal of potential but isn’t quite living up to it.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s