60 years onward

You Deserve a Lover

by Isabelle Danel

Lila is sad, a young man draws her attention to it as he’s cooking for her: “It’s melancholy…” she says while staring through the window. Lila bears the sorrow of the end of a great love story as it lingers on. The boy has gone far away to recharge his batteries, but he keeps up this toxic relationship. Her friends cheer her up, provide advice and support. They make her laugh, and sometimes they make her cry.

Encounters, silences, tears, confusion: Lila treads a tortuous, winding path through grief towards acceptance. However, in the opening shot, she walks straight to her goal, as an unwavering little soldier. The core of Hafsia Herzi’s first feature as a director shapes and breathes life into heartache. The spitting image of a dejected icon, the black-haired young woman falls apart before our very eyes, while around her, almost tauntingly, stands the duty to keep smiling in spite of it all: life. Intrinsically. Unambiguously.

At first glance, You Deserve a Lover is one of those introspective films young French filmmakers specialised in during the 1990s. But far from the self-indulgent worries this would have you believe, Abdellatif Kechiche’s muse directed a brilliant film that is both unique and multifaceted. It portrays the men and women of her generation through intimate sorrow. It is a universe in and of itself, with an unadorned, yet tender, tangible take.

What Hafsia Herzi captures in today’s youths is pure cinema. Lively and alive. As bodies come and go, and feelings to and fro. They move, dash, escape, reach and strike. Emotion is born from simple and beautifully embodied truth. Love does hurt. Her forebears had said as much long before her, François Truffaut to name but one. Bliss and pain are entwined… With her seemingly improvised dialogues, Friday Khalo’s heartbreaking quote, candescent fury, caressing frames, radiating light, this earnest, generous film is like no other but itself. After La Robda (2011) – her frisky short film on desire for cinema – and this first feature that manages to be both demanding and modest, it’s little to say that we crave to see what the director Hafsia Herzi has in store for us.