(Written by Intern, Megan Davis)
How a film can simultaneously do too much and not enough is beyond me, but that is the exact feeling I got when watching The Worst Ones, also known as Les Pires. This French drama focuses on a group of street kids chosen to star in a movie, while providing glimpses into their personal struggles. In this film within a film, Director Gabriel (Johan Heldenbergh) picks 17-year-old Lilly (Mallory Wanecques) to co-star as a pregnant teen looking after her younger siblings, Maylis (Mélina Vanderplancke) and Ryan (Timéo Mahaut), with a peer named Jessy (Loïc Pech) acting as the father of her child. During the production of the movie, bits and pieces of the children’s real lives are depicted.
With small glimpses into their world presented amidst the filming, many details are merely mentioned without clear purpose. I wondered how or why some plot points revealed relate to the overall story at all, and for most, I never got the answer. In one instance, we are shown Ryan’s mother attempting to regain custody of him from his sister, and Ryan lies, stating that he wants to live with his mother again. Although this was displayed fairly early in the film, it is not discussed again until nearly the end. It does not seem relevant to the rest of the plot, besides driving home the fact that these kids are the “worst ones.” Meanwhile, we see barely any of Maylis and Jessy, with Maylis even leaving halfway through shooting. Lilly’s story connects the most to the production of Gabriel’s film, and even then, I strongly feel that it could have been given a tighter focus.
Les Pires‘ story generally does not feel like it has much direction and, therefore, is not incredibly moving. On the other hand, I feel that the actors, especially Wanecques and Mahaut, did a phenomenal job in their roles. They are truly the strongest aspect of this film. It speaks volumes to Pech’s performance when I say I despised his character. He was fantastic in displaying an obnoxious and annoying teenage boy who consistently makes jokes at the expense of others. It is important to mention that Les Pires serves as the debut acting performances of each of the aforementioned actors—something I never would have guessed from their work in this film.
The camera movement, angles, and shots were simplistic but complementary. For much of the film, shaky-cam movements, even subtly, are used to accentuate the realism of the drama. All in all, Les Pires is simply okay. It was enjoyable, but I likely wouldn’t take the time to watch it again. However, as director Lise Akoka’s debut feature length film, I would say it is a strong start. With some refinement, it could be outstanding work.
Les Pires premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 22nd.