Dir: Eleonore Faucher. Fr.2004. 88mins

Assured and tenderly felt, ACommon Thread (Brodeuses) announces a promising new talent inwriter-director Eleonore Faucher. The story of a rural teenager coming to termswith her pregnancy and her future has some affinities with Agnes Varda's Vagabondeand the Dardennes brothers Rosetta. ACommon Thread doesn't share their gritty social realist approach oremotional intensity, but is much warmer in tone and ultimately moreconventional.

It is a small film but onemade with great craft, and control that gently seduces the audience with itssympathetic characters and human-interest drama. It will be of note to allfestival programmers but especially those from events championing new talentand first features. It also holds enough appeal to secure some modesttheatrical returns for distributors that have the resources to nurture the filmand build its profile. At Cannes the film tied for the Critics' Week Grand Prixwith Keren Yedaya's Or.

Graced with the frizzyginger locks and freckles of a young Nicole Kidman, Lola Neymark is Claire, anaive teenager who finds herself pregnant and cannot decide whether she wantsto keep the child. Collecting cabbages in the field of a local farmer, she iswilling to do whatever it takes for her financial survival but her real talentlies in embroidery. She keeps the news of the pregnancy from her family and the father and tellscolleagues in the supermarket that her weight gain is a side-effect of hertreatment for a non-existent cancer.

When local embroidererMadam Melikian (Ascaride) loses her son and work partner in a motorbikeaccident, Claire approaches her for a job. The core of the film becomes thebond that develops between a woman whose child has died and a girl anxiousabout a child that has yet to be born.

Attractively photographedby Pierre Cottereau, Brodeuses also has an unusual element in theembroidery commissions that the women make together. Melikian has worked forsome top haute-couture designers and there is an obvious metaphor in thethreads of their joint endeavours creating personal connections between the twoof them.

A Common Thread avoids the sentimentalityof a film like How To Make An American Quilt but in lesser hands thedevice might have seemed laboured. Faucher has the confidence and maturity tomake it work and is immeasurably helped by the two central performances.

Neymark's Claire isindependent but vulnerable and never begs for pity whilst Ascaride is typicallycommanding as a grief-stricken woman whose maternal instincts are reawakened byher new friend. Thomas Laroppe is also effective in a small role as Guillaume,a friend of Melikian's son who survived the accident and now senses anemotional connection with Claire.

Faucher's desire to createa happy ending may seem a little too neat and tidy for some and there areaspects of the story that might not repay close scrutiny (namely theconvenience of such a distinguished embroiderer living in the area). Still,there is nothing to spoil the pleasure of the film at the time and there issomething refreshing about a director who takes such an optimistic view of thehuman condition and our ability to overcome all kinds of adversity.

Prod cos: Sombrero Pictures, MalliaFilms
Int'l sales:
Flache Pyramide
Co-prod:BertrandVan Effenterre
EleonoreFaucher, Gaelle Mace
JoeleVan Effenterre
Main cast:
Lola Neymark, Ariane Ascaride, Marie Felix, Thomas Laroppe, ArthurQuehen, Jacky Berroyer