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Alice

Director – Josephine Mackerras – 2019 – UK, France, Australia – Cert. 15 – 103m

****

Available in the UK on Amazon Prime, Barbican On Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 24th

Working mum Alice Ferrand (Emilie Piponnier) has everything she wants in life – a devoted husband François (Martin Swabey), a young son – until one day her credit card is stopped. No money for shopping. No money from the cashpoint.

A visit to the bank reveals that François has been systematically withdrawing money from the joint account for the last year or so. Not only that, but he hasn’t been making the payments on the couple’s flat for the same period. The money from her parents is gone and she is weeks away from losing her home.

When she phones him, she gets his voicemail. Desperate to know what’s going on, she goes through his desktop computer and finds phone numbers. Some of these lead her to a high end escort agency who, as it happens, are holding job interviews. She goes along in the hope of finding out more information and is offered a job. Confronted with a daunting repayment schedule to save her home, after much soul searching she signs up in her new career.

Taking a few tips from fellow call girl Lisa (Chloé Boreham) (“get the money upfront”, “have a condom in the back of your mouth so it’s ready”, “start with a massage so you’re always in control”) she makes the job work. There remain hurdles to navigate such as finding childcare in the middle of the night when a client books at short notice. And a bailiff turning up to at her front door when she accidentally misses a payment.

Yet when her husband finally comes out of the woodwork, Alice’s new sense of empowerment means that she’s no longer reliant on him.

This is a riveting portrait of a woman on the edge after her life has collapsed, convincingly portrayed by Piponnier. Other performances are nicely judged too – Swabey exudes just the right amount of sleaze as the sex-obsessed husband, Boreham is believable as the more experienced pro who takes Alice under her wing.

This extends down to the minor characters, including a client who happens to be a family lawyer so can offer Alice some useful advice not to mention assorted members of the banking industry who come across as a combination of businesslike and uncaring of her plight. Well worth seeing.

Alice is out on VoD in the Available in the UK on Amazon Prime, Barbican On Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 24th.

Trailer here:

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