Immunologist Isabelle (Julie Delpy) shares custody of her Zoe daughter with ex-husband James (Richard Armitage) in modern-day Berlin. Often clashing about who has more access to Zoe, the pair snipe at each other behind a thin veneer of civility. However, matters are only made worse between them when Zoe is rushed to hospital, with each parents’ sense of blame not far behind…
... is a curious case of mixed fortune and grasping ambition.
French actress/director and screenwriter Julie Delphy’s ‘My Zoe’ is a curious case of mixed fortune and grasping ambition. Starting strongly with a deep examination of Isabelle’s and Jame’s concealed hostility to each other, the movie effectively swings your allegiances back and forth between them both: Isabelle is career-orientated and James is the burnt wreckage of her rejection. However where ‘Kramer vs Kramer‘ nailed its colours early on and later raised the stakes by introducing shades of grey, ‘My Zoe’ shears away from any judgement as soon as its second act arrives.
Moving away from its custodial openings, Delphy’s story of anguished parenthood movies its anti-septic aesthetic into science-fiction. With no score to soften this blow, her well-built ensemble drama is knocked through to become a jarring solo. Becoming two types of movie forced to share the bed of one, they compromise the credibilities of both Julie Delphy and a suitably sterile Richard Armitage.
Pivoting around the singular questions of what would you do and how far would you go?, ‘My Zoe’ wants to be a story about disintegration. Everyone is guilty in its tragic outcome and yet nobody is to blame, and as such, any sympathies become equally mired.
With a sketched series of fade-black scenes, ‘My Zoe’s’ conclusions demand more disbelief than you have already offered. With its first-world people, ungrounded by realities of work or money, ‘My Zoe’ cannibalises its early intrigue for a potential sense of morbidity that is never fully explored. Where ‘Little Joe‘ felt like a comically underfed premise, ‘My Zoe’ becomes its much more serious senior. Drawn in pastel greens, it genuinely succeeds in capturing the anguish of a hospital wait, only sadly jump onto a false narrative without asking nearly enough questions.
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