Reinventing Marvin, Dir. Anne Fontaine, France, 2017, 114 mins, French with English subtitles
Reinventing Marvin shuttles back and forth through the past and present of a man whose search for stage success in Paris is on the tough foundations of growing up gay in working-class rural France. Based on the true story of theatre actor Marvin Bijou, the screenplay draws ample inspiration from Edouard Louis’s bestselling autobiographical novel The End of Eddy (2014).
The Parisian gay scene is alluring, offering potential social and sexual as well as creative and professional freedoms, yet entry to this sphere is not easy – especially for a shy man, missing the entitlement and confidence that class privilege and habituation to city life can bring. As Marvin rehearses for a solo stage performance we observe his struggle to put to rest a history of homophobic bullying and class-based oppression played out at home and at school. We also follow his navigation of an adult relationship with an older, wealthier man. The latter is a site of struggle that also opens doors, including by means of an introduction to a career mentor played by Isabelle Huppert.
Anne Fontaine’s powerful study is enriched by Finnegan Oldfield’s César nominated performance as the adult Marvin, and by that of newcomer Jules Poirier, playing the young Marvin through challenging encounters between father and son.