|Content Rating||NC-17 (NC-17)|
|Company||Slot Machine, Zentropa International Poland, Zentropa International Köln|
|Country||France, Poland, Germany|
|Language||French, English, Polish|
Elles is a 2011 European film, directed and co-written by Polish director Małgośka Szumowska. It shows an episode in the life of Anne (Juliette Binoche), a journalist in Paris for French Elle who is writing an article about female student prostitution.
Although the young women are not keen on publicity, she persuades two students to talk to her: the provocative Alicja (Joanna Kulig), an ambitious economics student who left Poland to further her education; and the subtle Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier), enrolled in a Parisian classe préparatoire, determined to leave her modest provincial background behind.
Where Anne is expecting misery and distress, she discovers freedom, pride, and empowerment. As Anne's professional curiosity in the two women becomes a matter of personal interest, she starts to rediscover her own sexuality.
Elles premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and first entered general release in France in February 2012.
The film is set during the course of one day. Anne (Juliette Binoche) is trying to meet the deadline for her article about prostitution, while shopping and preparing dinner for her husband's boss and his wife. She is also worried about her two sons, the eldest of whom has been skipping classes while the younger appears to start being hooked on video games. This narrative is interrupted by the flashbacks to the conversations Anne has had with the two students, scenes from their lives, and the effect that their work in the sex industry is having on them and those close to them.
Anne interviews Alicja (Joanna Kulig), who, arriving from Poland to study in France, not only lost her suitcase but found the student advisors to be less than helpful in her hour of need. Another student came to her rescue, but admitted that his generosity was part of the courtship. By the time we see her being interviewed by Anne, Alicja has earned enough to have a very nice apartment along with designer clothes and handbags. She is much more hedonistic than Charlotte and proceeds to get Anne drunk during the course of the interview in her apartment. When asked who her clients are, Alicja simply replies that they are bored husbands. For Alicja, being alone in a foreign country has led her to seemingly much more freedom than she enjoyed at home, but when asked if she wanted to stop, she admits that there is an element of addiction with the way she earns money.
Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier) is quite a different person, who seems very relaxed about the sex she has with her clients. She has tried doing part-time work but found that her studies suffered so she turned to prostitution. But she still does the occasional shift as she needs to be able to explain to her family and boyfriend where the money comes from. These sexual encounters inevitably lead to conflict in her relationship with her boyfriend who at one point demands to know if she is seeing someone else. Her friendly, girl-next-door nature leads her clients to confide in her about their lives – their jobs, their wives – which has surprised Charlotte as she had imagined the work would have been non-stop sex.
How the students' lives turn out is left to the viewer to decide, with the end of the film focusing more on Anne's life and the effect these encounters with the two students have had on her and her relationship with her husband.
- Juliette Binoche as Anne
- Anaïs Demoustier as Charlotte
- Joanna Kulig as Alicja
- Krystyna Janda as Alicja's mother
- Louis-Do de Lencquesaing as Patrick
- Andrzej Chyra as Sadist client
- Ali Marhyar as Saïd
- Jean-Marie Binoche as Anne's father
- François Civil as Florent (Anne and Patrick's older son)
- Pablo Beugnet as Stéphane (Anne and Patrick's younger son)
- Valérie Dréville as Charlotte's mother
- Jean-Louis Coulloc'h as Charlotte's father
- Arthur Moncia as Thomas
- Scali Delpeyrat as Charles
- Laurence Ragon as Colette
- Alain Libolt as Colette's husband
- Florence Loiret Caille as Rita
- Swann Arlaud as Young client
- Nicolas Layani as Guitar client
The film was originally rated NC-17 in the US as a result of explicit sexual content, but this rating was later surrendered.