‘Tomorrow and Thereafter’ (‘Demain et tous les autres jours’): Film Review | Locarno 2017

Newcomer Luce Rodriguez stars with Noemie Lvovsky in writer-director Lvovsky’s family drama ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ opener of the long-running Swiss festival.

Happily disobeying W.C. Fields’ counsel against working with children and animals, writer-director-performer Noemie Lvovsky gamely lets herself be doubly upstaged in her sixth directorial outing, Tomorrow and Thereafter (Demain et tous les autres jours). A mildly fantastical tale of an eccentric mother, her precocious 8-year-old daughter and the latter’s sagacious pet owl, this is a sensitively rendered slice of therapeutic autobiography for Lvovsky, one of France’s most popular thespians. A crowd-pleaser with a gently melancholy undertow, the Locarno opener is likely to share the fortunes of her five previous directorial outings, scoring decent returns at home (a Sept. 27 release is set) while finding berths at audience-oriented festivals further afield. 

Lvovsky has been nominated for a record six best supporting actress awards at the Cesars, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, since making a belated big-screen debut at age 36 in 2001. And her films as director have often functioned as showcases for their stars, including the reliably rambunctious Lvovsky herself in her warmly received Camille Rewinds (2012), a Gallic spin on Peggy Sue Got Married. Here she walks a zig-zag line between charming dottiness and full-blown mental illness as the unnamed divorcee mother of 8-year-old Mathilde (Luce Rodriguez), the duo occupying a rambling apartment in a fashionable district of Paris (no mention of how they afford such desirable digs.)

The Bottom Line

Elevated by offbeat touches and a precocious pint-sized protagonist.

Still in contact with her father (Mathieu Amalric), Mathilde is a self-possessed kid who has adapted as well as can be expected to her volatile but fundamentally loving home environment. The pair seemingly have no friends, relatives or neighbors; presented as if from Mathilde’s perspective, the film instead operates first as an examination of the mother-daughter bond, then, as maman becomes increasingly distrait, a character study of an intelligent, solitary and highly imaginative little girl. Rodriguez, who reportedly has some stage experience under her belt, is simply irresistible here in her first screen role, shouldering the bulk of the dialogue (co-written by Florence Seyvos) and navigating a wide range of emotions without ever striking a false or artificial beat. Very much a name to note.

With her mother often absent and her dad at best a marginal figure (they regularly Skype-chat), Mathilde strikes up a close relationship with her feathered companion — like the mother and the father, coyly never named in the screenplay — who operates as a kind of “imaginary friend” with physical form. Energetically voiced by Micha Lescot and expertly wrangled by Simon Thurier and Pascal Treguy, the young owl provides the much-needed perspective of a friendly, sensible adult for Mathilde, who is, of course, the only one able to hear the critter talk. The most endearing strigine familiar since Harry Potter’s Hedwig, Mathilde’s feathery chum (occasionally shown in full spectacular flight via poetic slow motion) is a sparky screen presence, milking regular chuckles with his wide-eyed reactions to the domestic shenanigans unfolding beyond the bars of his antique wooden cage.

Dedicated — like Camille Rewinds and her sophomore effort Life Doesn’t Scare Me (1999) — to Lvovsky’s late mother Genevieve (whom she has described as “a little … somewhere else”), the competently mounted, blandly titled Tomorrow and Thereafter feels very much like a heartfelt tribute to a beloved, much-missed, deeply troubled parent. But the tone is generally much more quirky than harrowing, Lvovsky and Seyvos chronicling the contours and consequences of insanity in a muted, slightly soft-pedaling way that prevents properly moving notes from ever being struck. A 10-minute coda, set perhaps a decade after the main action — the mother now happily a resident in a bucolic mental hospital, seen dancing in a rainstorm with her grown-up daughter (Anais Demoustier) while the owl looks grumpily on — wraps up proceedings in aggressively upbeat fashion. 

Production companies: F comme Film, Gaumont
Cast: Luce Rodriguez, Noemie Lvovsky, Mathieu Amalric, Micha Lescot, Elsa Amiel, Anais Demoustier
Director: Noemie Lvovsky
Screenwriters: Noemie Lvovsky, Florence Seyvos
Producers: Sidonie Dumas, Jean-Louis Livi
Cinematographer: Jean-Marc Fabre
Production designers: Brigitte Brassard, Yves Fournier
Costume designer: Yvette Rothscheid
Editors: Annette Dutertre, Anne Weil
Composer: Hubert Cornet
Casting directors: Alexandre Nazarian, Constance Demontoy
Venue: Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande)
Sales: Gaumont, Paris

In French
95 minutes