It’s serendipitous timing that Queer Screen is bringing French women’s soccer film Marinette to Australia on the back of the record-breaking semi-final run of local team The Matildas. At one point, a journalist asks “Do you think women’s soccer can attract crowds like the men’s?”, based on this year’s Women’s World Cup, the answer is a resounding yes!
This fairly traditional biopic, based on Marinette Pichon’s 2018 autobiography Ne jamais rien lâcher, barrels through Pichon’s life at a breakneck pace. Within the film’s 95 minute running time we take a chronological tour of her life, taking in her childhood with an abusive father, through school, playing women’s soccer in France, signing a professional contract in the United States and eventually returning to France. A few of her romantic relationships happen in between, and there are some sharp examples of homophobia, but they often go past in a blur.
It’s frustrating that writer-director Virginie Verrier never takes the time to let us into Pichon’s headspace, merely running us through a checklist of events. For a story with so much passion, the film is surprisingly cold. The two clear highlights of the film are the beautiful cinematography of Xavier Dolléans who captures the heart of the sport and the human drama with exquisite verve, and a terrific central performance by Garance Marillier as the adult Marinette Pichon.
There’s a scream of frustrated rage at the heart of Marinette that only becomes audible toward the very end of the film and its final moments are aimed directly at the Fédération Française de Football for the lack of support received by France’s women’s soccer team. Despite Pichon’s decade’s long status as one of the world’s best soccer players, the support at home is still lacking in 2023.
This a competently crafted, but unremarkable film that is carried by Marillier’s excellent performance. That said, it will certainly make for an interesting watch alongside Mitch Nivalis’ documentary about opening sports up to women and gender-diverse people, Equal The Contest, which is also playing at Queer Screen, showing us two sides of the discrimination within the sporting community and the battle for recognition.
By Chad Armstrong
Marinette, which world premiered at Tribeca, plays at 6:30pm on Saturday, August 26th, 2023 as part of the 10th Queer Screen Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. Click here for tickets & more information.