Cinema: “Small nature”, the confusion of feelings

Small type **

by Samuel Theis

French film, 1h35

In his previous film, party girlGolden Camera at Cannes in 2014, Samuel Theis filmed his mother, a cabaret trainer, and immersed us, with him and his family, in an environment and a territory – Forbach, on the Franco-German border – both located in the margins of our gaze.

→ CRITICAL. “Party girl”: Angelique, marquise of the margins

He returns there almost eight years later with Small type, still in an autobiographical vein but this time falling more clearly into the realm of fiction. That of a 10-year-old boy, brought up in a popular environment, whose desire for social, intellectual and sexual emancipation will crystallize around the figure of his schoolmaster.

With his long hair, his blond curls and his angelic face, Johnny stands out, even physically, in the housing estate where his mother has just moved after yet another separation. A slender child who grew up too quickly, in the midst of men with assumed virility, he already aspires to an unspoken elsewhere when his new teacher, Monsieur Adamski (Antoine Reinartz), is going to open the doors to a future he does not would ever have dared to consider.

His gratitude towards this attentive and brilliant man will turn into troubled fascination as the young boy discovers his sexuality. In Johnny, the awakening of desire then merges with his thirst for knowledge and his search for a father figure.

Delicacy and elegance

On a theme close to that evoked in the books of Édouard Louis (Finish with Eddy Bellegueule) or Didier Eribon (Back to Reims), where the discovery of homosexuality is coupled with a sometimes violent rejection of his social condition, Samuel Theis demonstrates delicacy and elegance.

→ CRITICAL. “Who killed my father”: Édouard Louis, in the name of the father

There is nothing creepy in this one-way attraction to which the master immediately sets limits. Only confusion on the part of a little boy who intensely lives his difference and only aspires to join a world – the educated middle class – which was forbidden to him until then.

In a film with an asserted naturalism, mixing professional and non-professional actors, thus accentuating the gap between social classes, the young Aliocha Reinert, fascinating with stubborn determination, naturally conveys all the ambiguities of his character.


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