“The Sixth Child”, the arrangement
The Sixth Child**
by Leopold Legrand
French film, 1 h 32
The two couples, at the center of the film, should never have met. On the one hand, Franck, a scrap dealer, and his wife Meriem (Damien Bonnard and Judith Chemla) live in their caravan with their five children on land reserved for travelers on the outskirts of Paris. On the other, Julien and Anna (Benjamin Lavernhe and Sara Giraudeau), two Parisian lawyers whose dazzling success is overshadowed by their childhood illness.
Their lives collide by chance when Franck, following a theft and a road accident – the film’s spectacular opening scene – is prosecuted and uses Julien’s services.
The latter, a brilliant partner in a large firm, does not usually deal with this type of business but he is touched by the story of Franck who, now deprived of his truck, wonders how he will feed his family. Especially since a sixth child is coming, not really desired. All the elements are therefore in place to lead to an improbable arrangement between the two families.
Loosely based on a novel, crying rivers by Alain Jassard (Éd. Héloïse d’Ormesson), this first film by Léopold Legrand constructed as a thriller confronts a woman’s desire for motherhood with law and morality. How far are we willing to go to satisfy this desire for children, and what limits are we able to cross to achieve this?
The film avoids any caricature
These ethical questions are posed all the more acutely because Anna, a lawyer, is fully aware of the rules she is breaking. As for the director, he does not judge his characters, he only tries to understand how they can come to this. The pact made between these two mothers in the name of the good of the child seems to them to respond to a certain logic and to repair an injustice. Anna’s final act of love is a demonstration of this.
The film could have been heavily demonstrative, even caricatural in the opposition between these two worlds, the sores on one side and the Gypsies on the other. But he manages to stay on a fragile ridge line, thanks to both a staging full of tension and a quartet of actors who are all excellent. With a special mention for the two mothers, Sara Giraudeau and Judith Chemla, whose fine acting was rewarded with a double interpretation prize at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival.