Director and writer Josephine Mackerras thrusts her titular character, Parisian Alice Ferrand (Emilie Piponnier) in sticky situations. One of those situations involve her begging a banker to give her one more chance. Sadly, she didn’t know about her former chances, ones that her bad husband Francois (Martin Swabey) took for her. Francois juggles many balls, one as a teacher, another as someone with a position in a reputable company. His third ball is as someone with an addiction to sex workers. Hiring sex workers isn’t a bad thing except that he emptied Alice’s inheritance and put their condo up for collateral. This gives Alice no choice but to make money through any means she can.
Francois goes AWOL on her during this time, and her part time work as a receptionist can’t pay off the mortgage fast enough. Alice investigates the people who bankrupted her. But they mistake her as an applicant and accepts her to make outcalls for high rollers. She ends up paying the bills and tries to work with this new routine, until Francois returns. She accepts him, with tears in her eyes, but doesn’t fully forgive him. Her challenge, then, is trying to integrate him back to her life without letting him know this secret that can ruin her relationship with her young son.
Recent cinema, as well as its subjective viewers, puts sex workers within two categories. Either they act as foils for more ‘virtuous’ protagonists or as women who go into this work because of unique financial situations. Alice aligns itself with the latter, but it still makes the circumstances interesting. Because of sex work, there are many doors that close for Alice as much as they open for her. Visuals, as they do, help depict that transformation. Mackerras offers the most antiseptic version of Paris until her work exposes the city’s hidden corners that gives her a taste of nature and peace of mind.
Its’ also kind of obvious to point out that the work turns Alice into her own boss, but the movie shows that her arc towards freedom is pretty much that – an arc and not a straight line. As a warning, Francois discovers her work. And he threatens her with physical and sexual abuse and he makes good on one of those threats. Plot is important here but performance equally is. Piponnier takes us through Alice’s emotions, desperation, anger, joy, and she takes us through her state of mind. She expresses this idea that Alice supports herself as she takes one step after another towards the freedom she deserves.
Rent and stream Alice in selected platforms and virtual cinemas.