Judge Clark Douglas was surprised to discover that Christopher Columbus was a lesbian.
Our reviews of The New World (2005) (published May 9th, 2006), The New World (2005) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection (published July 20th, 2016), and The New World (2005): The Extended Cut (published October 14th, 2008) are also available.
They've decided to have a baby. It won't be as easy as they think.
Little Girl: "I think when I grow up, I will marry a boy, because then there will be less problems."
Facts of the Case
Lucie (Natalia Dontcheva) and Marion (Vanessa Larre) have been together for over five years, and Lucie is ready to have a child. Marion is a little less enthusiastic about the idea, but she agrees that if it's what Lucie really wants, she'll go along with it. The problem is figuring out just how they want to go about getting Lucie pregnant. Their friends suggest that an anonymous donor is probably the way to go, but Lucie wants the father to be someone she knows and trusts. After a lengthy and headache-inducing search, the couple finally settles on Hugo (Gregory Fitouissi), an old friend of Marion's. As the attempted pregnancy begins, Lucie and Marie deal with the increasingly frustrating reactions of their friends and family.
I imagine that I am not the only American who has always imagined the French as being far more socially progressive than the good old U.S. of A. They sit around drinking wine, reading esteemed literature, and having orgies, right? All kidding aside, the country is often regarded as being more liberal and open-minded, but The New World would suggest otherwise. This film paints a portrait of France suggesting that it is equally closed-minded when it comes to the subject of homosexuality, and perhaps even more restrictive in some respects. The film misfires nearly as often as it hits, but at its best it manages to be a compelling portrait of a lesbian relationship and the many social struggles surrounding it.
Lucie has a job working at a local elementary school. She has absolutely no doubts about her own sexuality or the relationship that she is in, but she makes every attempt to hide the fact that she is a lesbian from her co-workers. Marion attempts to give her a quick kiss when she picks Lucie up from work, but Lucie jerks her head back nervously. "Not here," she gasps, "As far as the educational system is concerned, if you're a homosexual you must be some sort of pedophile." When co-workers mention hunky guys that just might be available, Lucie offers variations on, "Sorry, I'm washing my hair."
Both women come from families that disapprove of their behavior. Marion's mother is the most open about her opinions. "Children should not be raised by two women," she insists. "A child needs a father and mother. Not two mothers. It's unnatural and sacrilegious." She also raises her eyebrows when she finds out that Lucie is pregnant rather than Marion. "You're not the father or the mother," she sniffs. "You're not anything. What are you?" Marion pretends to shrug such suggestions off, but they do affect her. One of the film's more moving scenes occurs when she tells Lucie of her fears about not being a "real mother" to the child. Lucie's family has always claimed that they were absolutely supportive of her lesbian relationship, but everyone balks upon hearing the news that she will be having a child. "Wait a minute," her father protests, "You committed to the idea of being different and leading a different lifestyle. Why are you trying to conform and be like a straight person by having a baby?"
Perhaps the most intriguing subplot in the film is the one involving Hugo. He's a nice guy, but he insists that his role in the child's life will be a limited one. He will allow the child to see him, but says that Lucie and Marion should not expect him to be an active father to the child. Once the child is actually born, things change. Hugo decides he wants to play a major role and be a real dad, which leaves Marion feeling sidelined and abandoned. This scenario leads to some particularly interesting moments, most notably one in which a man who works for an adoption agency informs Marion that she will have no legal rights whatsoever unless she can prove that she has been with Lucie for at least 15 years. "It's not that way for heterosexuals," Marion insists. "That's irrelevant," the man replies coolly.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
First of all, the transfer is absolutely terrible. Not only is it presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (seriously, way too many modern DVD releases are getting this treatment), but it just looks awful in almost every way. Color bleeding is a problem throughout, the level of detail is so poor that it seems as if the film could have been pulled off Youtube, flesh tones are off…it's a mess. Audio is also somewhat troublesome, as the music is often cranked up too loud in contrast to the dialogue. What awful music, too…one piece is an absolutely shameless rip of Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova" that changes just enough notes to avoid copyright infringement. There are no extras included on the disc.
As for the film itself, my biggest problems come from the frequent attempts to insert wacky comedy into what is primarily a serious film. There are several scenes here that are painfully out of place, seemingly having wandered over from a rejected television sitcom and inserted themselves into this film. There are also several dramatic moments that simply push too hard. The film was originally made for television in France, so perhaps it is to be expected that it occasionally feels like a Made-for-TV film (complete with predictable developments around almost every corner).
Though the story may hit familiar beats at certain points and miss beats entirely at other moments, overall it works reasonably well. The terrible transfer prevents me from recommending a purchase, though, so a rental is the most I can suggest.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Casque d'or Films
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