Issues: Our Review of ‘All to Play For’

Posted in Theatrical by - January 14, 2024
Issues: Our Review of ‘All to Play For’

Sylvie (Virginie Efira) is, for the most part, a mother who loves to hang out with her children. The thing about mothers, though, is that society, specifically French society, puts mothers under a microscope, looking for flaws. Women like her are allowed to party and/ or work nights – at least that is true in theory. Sylvie, however, does this one too many times, inadvertently entering the radar of the French version of child services. When Sylvie is out those two times, her younger son Sofianne (Alexis Tonetti) burns himself while trying to make fries.

Sofianne burning himself and his family’s kitchen while trying to make fries is enough for the hospital staff to alert child services. An agent, Mademoiselle Henry (India Heir) takes Sofianne out of Sylvie’s hands, causing her family to fall apart. She’s not going down without a fight though, although at first, she trusts the court system to see that she a good mother. They don’t see what she sees. They let her visit Sofianne but only during a weekday.

Sylvie’s desire to get Sofianne back exposes his needs as well those of her brother Herve (Arieh Worthaler) and older son Jean-Jacques (Felix Lefebvre). In telling this story, I imagine child actors can go either way when it comes to making or breaking films. Thankfully, both the child actors in Delphine Deloget‘s All to Play For are good. Alexis Tonetti, specifically has a handle on how to show Sofianne’s behavioral issues. Those issues come up during the film’s climactic set piece where he expresses his desire to be with his mom in violent ways. Come to think of it, there’s a very set piece-y feel to this melodramatic film.

Family melodramas are understandably easy to pick apart, especially one like All to Play For which feels like a film with too many big moments. But repeat viewings of this have is rewards. Watching this again revealed its smaller moments with scenes that show Sylvie’s interactions outside of her family. One of those scenes has her criticizing another mother within the community, basically doing what child services is doing to her. The film doesn’t necessarily show her hypocrisy or if it does, it shows that instinct as a human one.

All to Play For, like most proletarian melodramas, is in a frequency that I don’t mind. My main criticism of this, however, is depicts its supporting characters like it’s doing a heavy juggling act. Specifically, it gives Jean-Jacques too many qualities without making it seem like he’s a character with any nuance. It treats his ‘flakiness’ as something that Sylvie reacts to even if yes, Efira still sympathetic when she calls Jean-Jacques out. And back to performances, Efira’s generally great at knowing exactly what a film like this wants from her.

Watch All to Play For in select Canadian cities and surprise – not available to watch in Toronto. Feel weird being left out but I’m happy that Canada’s getting a film like this.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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