Just a fucking excellent film.
Her Way is a film about a mother trying to do the best for her son. Marie is a single mother, raising her son Adrien alone. He is 17 and going through a difficult time. He is sullen, lazy, stoned and feckless. Marie is at her wit’s end trying to get through to him. The only thing he has ever shown any interest in is cooking. When he is expelled from school, the public school system is a bit like, ‘Eh, maybe your fuckup son would be better off in P.E. You could be a security guard!’
Determined her son won’t set his sights any lower, Marie decides to try and get him into one of the most prestigious private schools for training chefs. He gets in, but she has to raise the tuition fees. Marie works as a prostitute but struggles to earn enough cash from her regular clients. The film follows her as she turns to more and more desperate measures to get the money.
Her son Adrien is a frustrating character. It’s hard to watch Marie go to such lengths, calling in favours, suffering indignities, and working flat out, only to come home to a pig sty, sticking of weed, with her red-eyed, jobless son still in bed at midday. You want to slap him.
But I can also see myself as a teenager in him. He has sunk down inside himself and is already certain of the outcome of any of his efforts. It’s so frustrating to watch Marie fight so hard, when her son doesn’t fight at all. But he’s convinced it will all end in failure, so he thinks she is a fool to try. And like, he’s not wrong, raising this money is a huge feat, and the odds are stacked against them succeeding. But that’s what his mother has that he hasn’t – hope. And self-belief. And that is what she is trying to teach him.
I also like that they didn’t simply make Marie a stereotype of ‘the whore with a heart of gold’. You root for her, you admire her, but she does some well dodgy stuff over the course of this. For one, she’s a racist. She’s an activist for sex workers’ rights, advocating at rallies for total legalisation. But she refuses to give flyers to black women who are selling sex, for the most traditional of racist reasons, the standard ‘coming over here, taking our jobs’ bullshit. Despite holding signs at the rally saying “Not guilty, Not a victim, Proud to be a whore”, she describes the black workers as “slaves”. It’s the dumbest, most self-defeating thing in the world, but Marie is not simply a cipher of what the audience want to cheer on, she’s complicated, messy, and sometimes shit.
Her Way is a great film, about what we pass down to our kids, how we give them what they need. All the way through the film you hope Adrien will break out of his defeatism, that he will see the lengths his mother is going to for him, to realise that his future must be something worthwhile if she will put in this much effort. Honestly had a tear in my een by the end. Brilliant.