Fat Girl (2001)

“No one would think we are sisters.”

Catherine Breillat’s film Fat Girl (A Ma Soeur) examines the relationship between two sisters–Anais and Elena. Pudgy, unattractive Anais (Anais Reboux) is 12 and svelte Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is 15. The girls are on holiday with their distracted father (Romain Goupil) and their bored mother (Arsinee Khanjian). It doesn’t take Elena long before she attracts the attentions of a much older, Italian law student, Fernando (Libero De Rienzo). Fernando is a practiced young man when it comes to manipulating girls, and he frankly boasts about his many conquests. But it really doesn’t take a great deal of skill to seduce Elena, and before long she’s convinced he loves her and that they’re engaged.

When it comes to boys, Elena has no scruples and no common sense. This is in complete contrast to her much more interesting and sensible sister, Anais. Anais’s dumpiness makes her an unlikely quarry for men like Fernando who are looking for just another conquest. Just as Fernando isn’t interested in probing the character behind Elena’s looks, Anais’s looks result in her instant dismissal–the sisters are both rejected or accepted on face value only. Anais is an interested observer to Elena’s folly through the course of the holiday. She watches Elena’s behaviour, keeping her own counsel, and reaches conclusions based on Elena’s experience. Elena believes she wants to give herself, for the first time, to someone special–a man she loves. In contrast, the much more complicated Anais wants her first sexual experience to be with someone who means absolutely nothing.

Just what befalls these two girls is the subject of the film. The plot examines how these two vastly different sisters treat each other–Elena uses Anais as a cover for her antics, but most of the time, she’s ashamed of her plain sister and is cruel as a result. Anais deals with Elena rather stoically for the most part–only allowing the occasional barb to deliver a sting. She too uses Elena in her own fashion, and to her Elena is almost an experiment in the exploitative nature of male-female relationships.

While I can’t say I enjoyed the film’s ending, nonetheless, it provided an ironic peculiar presentation of Anais’s philosophy. Director Catherine Breillat’s controversial films are always interesting to watch, and Fat Girl is not an exception. DVD extras include behind-the-scenes footage, and an interview with the director (this includes a look at alternate endings). In French with English subtitles.

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