The heartbreaking debut of the Wallonian Emmanuelle Nicot (already in theaters) addresses a subject that many viewers prefer to avoid. However, it is dalva, about a young teenage girl who was abused by her father for years, anything but misery porn. The drama wisely focuses on the main character’s willpower.
When we see 12-year-old Dalva laugh for the first time, the French-speaking Belgian film has already been running for at least half an hour. It occurs at an extremely painful moment, in a prison, during a reunion with her father handcuffed to him, whom she invariably calls by his first name (Jacques). “They say you’re a pedophile,” the girl asks, completely disappointed. The romantic and even sexual relationship they had was completely healthy in her eyes. She doesn’t know any better. The man breaks. “They’re right,” is the reply.
From that moment on, not only does a process of elaboration and awareness-raising begin. At the juvenile facility where she is, she must learn that her father is a monster and that the clothes and makeup she usually wears are not appropriate for someone her age. Roommate Samia even teaches Dalva, who has been transformed into a mini-woman by her father to serve as a wife, to walk like an ‘ordinary girl’.
Many movies are about coming of age, this one is about the exact opposite. During that journey, the chills slowly give way to a sense of hope. The resistant Dalva regains her free will. She is completely believable from second to second, especially because of the leading lady Zelda Samson. Such a young actress showing such incredibly nuanced game is truly rare.
Regie: Emmanuelle Nicot. Hoofdrollen: Zelda Samson, Alexis Manenti, Sandrine Blancke as Fanta Guirassy
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