Marie, an independent prostitute and activist, dreams of a bright future for her son. She decides to enroll him in one of the best cooking schools in France. Creator and director Cécile Ducrocq talks to us about her process and inspiration.
I'd love to know a bit more about the process for you. How did it begin? How were you drawn to telling this story?
I did a show seven years ago, seven years ago called Back Alley, which was about a prostitute. I'd seen a prostitute in the street and that image of a woman coming from another part of the world for sex work shocked me a lot. Of course, I knew it exists. But this was the subject of one of my first shots. I liked to work with a local actress who wasn't so famous at the time. I thought I a character was born, and I wanted to talk more about a universal subject and how Her Way is not so much a movie about prostitution, but more than will be about a relationship between a woman and her son. The love she gives him.
Yeah. I write for her because I really liked working with her on my short films. She was very involved, and a very physical actress. She comes from the theatre, and she plays a lot with her body. And of course for this, you have to play with the body. She's not afraid of the sex scenes. So yeah, I always had her in my mind.
I really appreciate that Marie as a character doesn't fall into a stereotype of what we think a sex worker will be. I think we either believe she'll be really young and naive or of the other way and be really old and sort of over the hill in entertainment terms. And was making sure that she's at that right stage in life must have been important to focus on. Like you said, it's not a film about sex. It's a film about a mother and son.
It's me it's an archetype, a prostitute. It doesn't have to be a cliche. So for me, it was very important to be realistic. And then the other important is suddenly having a boy that is a teenager, full of bullshit. There's a reaction there. So at this stage, Marie has a lot of problems. Financial problems, it's a tough job. And also in France, the laws about prostitution don't make it forbidden, but it's very difficult actually. Clients can be punished.
What is it about a mother-son dynamic that causes so many challenges?
It was important to show a mother in which every mother could recognise herself. I put a lot of myself into it and a lot of my relationship with my son so it's so nice, you know, in a way. It's a very normal character. She has to shake him every morning so he gets to school, and yells at him because he's not cleaning his room. So I put in a lot of things that every mother can recognise. The specificity is that she wants to tell him that it's not because she's a prostitute that he will fail his life. It's fighting with a social determinism. She's saying “I'm a prostitute, and maybe it's not the most beautiful job in the world. But I'm free. I choose my job, and you will do what you got.”
So when you're talking about the social determinism there, those scenes like the real protest and that sense of community — how do you make sure those scenes reflect the truth of what's going on in France?
I went to those demonstrations. There was a big debate in front of political persecution. It's very complicated and I'm not sure I have a strong opinion. I think my opinion is that we have to let them work. It is not forbidden, but the clients are punished and we have victims in danger. Prostitution hasn't decreased, just violence has increased. That's a fact. I talked with sex workers and politicians who are against these laws. So it's a difficult subject, but it was important for me to be realistic and talk to those people.
I think as a non-French viewer, we have an idea of the French as being very forward-thinking and very sex-positive. And I feel like you've really challenged that was that. Was it a conscious choice or was it just a natural byproduct?
I didn't know that. I know we have the reputation of being easier on that. But really, I didn't think about that during my movie. Maybe I'm more comfortable talking about that. It's interesting. I never thought that my subject was French-specific.
So what's next? What would you like your next projects to be?
I'm working on a project for a TV series and another feature film. It's about school. So both different, yet kind of similar.
Her Way is in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema 26th August.