Inspired by her own personal fear of eventually wanting children “once it’ll be too late”, Delphine Le Courtois’ deeply moving short Corps contrarié (Upset body) follows a strongly independent 30-year-old woman who finds her outlook on life shaken after a pregnancy scare. Having to come to terms with the fact that not everything is under her control, this unexpectedly engaging tale shines through its poignant screenplay and extremely compelling lead-performance.
In our modern society, women live with a paradox. We keep on starting to have children later and later, yet we keep on being reminded that our biological clock is ticking. While this conflict was circulating in Le Courtois’ mind when writing Corps contrarié, another question was troubling her: how much of women’s desire to bear children is innate rather than acquired? When she penned the screenplay those were the themes she wanted to explore and by sharing her character’s intimacy, she successfully conveys the reality of what it means to be a woman in present times.
“Who gets to decide what we do with our life?”
“It seemed to me this story was not relevant only to myself and my questioning, but also to others”, Le Courtois explains as she discusses the motivations behind making Corps contrarié. “Whilst the process of writing the script and making the movie was cathartic for me, I hoped that the themes and the questions I raised would resonate with others, and in particular with other women. Over and above the issue of fertility, I wanted to ask fundamental questions about what sort of life we should lead, and who gets to decide what we do with our life?”
Corps contrarié is undeniably on the lengthy side. The structure of the short makes the conclusion of the story come as no surprise, but I was still impressed by how the film held my attention from the opening shot until the end credits. The meticulous editing provides the film with an engaging rhythm, hitting all the emotional beats perfectly and making you totally lose track of time whilst immersed in the on-screen world.
For the majority of the film, the camera never strays far from the face of its lead actress, ensuring the audience feels both part of her world and the inner conflict she is confronted with. DP Hugo Gendron explains that this approach was chosen as they wanted to “simultaneously see the environment and the nuances of play in her gaze”.
Gabrielle faces an unexpected situation that forces her to find answers now, when she thought she would have more time. I believe that women will relate to the specificities of Gabrielle’s turmoil, but the conflict is so well written and complex, that its ramifications feel universal. Ultimately, it’s a story of dealing with motherhood, dealing with expectations both societal and personal, but it’s also a tale of time and the way our bodies unavoidably change – something we can all relate to.
That realization is probably the most heartbreaking, since it’s impossible to go back, it creates an instant feeling of loss. Gabrielle has to grieve in many ways, and the hardest part is that she is grieving something she never had and never wanted to have, until now. The feeling of being robbed of an option she had on the back burner, makes it impossible for an outsider to provide her with the perfectly comforting words. Even though her mother gets really close when she tells her she doesn’t want her to “regret something you don’t want yet”.
Geneviève Boivin-Roussy, who portrays Gabrielle, deserves so much acclaim. All the right ingredients are there for the film to succeed, but it’s her performance that truly elevates Corps contrarié. With the camera so close to her, the rawness of her performance is incredible and as we witness her going through all the stages of grief and more, you can’t help but feel emotionally impacted by it all.
When that last scene begins, you know the story is wrapping and even though the narrative mounts to a great anti-climactic finale, a sense of peace and relief is left to resonate through the viewer. Le Courtois has complete command over her audience. Corps contrarié is part of the esteemed Travelling Distribution catalog and Le Courtois is now writing, and will hopefully direct, a feature adaptation of this film and of The Dive (Le plongeon), her first short film.