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January 29, 2018

Ma vie en rose

by Franz Patrick


Ma vie en rose (1997)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Plenty of movies make a whole lot of noise but ultimately end up being about nothing. Here is a picture that tries to explore a sensitive topic, in some cultures still considered to be taboo, one that will remain relevant for many decades to come.

“Ma vie en rose,” written by Alain Berliner and Chris Vander Stappen, is about a seven-year-old boy who is convinced that she is a girl. Ludovic (Georges Du Fresne) likes to dress up in women’s clothing, prefers to play with dolls rather than trucks, and at one point admits to her grandmother (Hélène Vincent) that when she is no longer a boy, she will marry Jérôme (Julien Rivière), a classmate and friend from across the street.

Transphobia is communicated in small and big ways. Some people make remarks without necessarily intending harm. For example, as children have “gender appropriate” toys on their desks during show-and-tell, Ludovic reluctantly takes out two dolls, Ben and Pam. Surprised with the kind of toys her student has just pulled out, the teacher asks, “You want to be like Ben and not Pam, right?” Then the teacher proceeds to suggest that Ludovic and a girl who sits in front of the class might make a good couple. And yet I wondered. Is the teacher’s intention to protect Ludovic from humiliation? By preventing the child from admitting that she wants to be like Pam and then disguising the situation with a joke, there is a good possibility that perhaps the teacher has Ludovic’s best interests in mind.

The escalation of the child’s lack of happiness from a social perspective is painted with truth and clarity. He loves who he is. It is those outside of himself who have a problem. Part of it is a lack of understanding. Most of the time, it is a lack of willingness to understand. The distinction between them makes up one of the most effective arcs in the story which involves Hanna (Michèle Laroque) and Pierre (Jean-Philippe Écoffey), Ludovic’s parents. At one point or another, they want Ludovic’s hair cut off so she can look more like a boy, tell her not to wear a dress because boys just do not wear dresses, and force her to see a psychologist to get her “fixed,” to set her “straight.”

There is a lot of pain and struggle in the seven-year-old’s life and I found it admirable that Alain Berliner, the director, does not flinch from it. It gets so unbearable for our protagonist that one point, she tries to commit suicide. I have no doubt that this scene will make an impression. A child attempting to end her life may appear to be some kind of an exaggeration in a movie. But if you look at the news and hear about children killing themselves because they are bullied at school for being different, you realize that this is a reality we are facing to today. And it will continue for many years until we learn to embrace—a level beyond tolerance and acceptance.

Somewhat distracting are the fantasy scenes. It is understandable that we experience Ludovic’s way of coping, but perhaps it is best to minimize them. I found that the seriousness is undercut by some humorous images at times.

“My Life in Pink” takes a subject and examines it without compromise. This way, we get a taste of the internal lives of the main characters and sympathize with them. It shows that dealing with one’s own or a loved one’s feelings of being born in the wrong body is never easy. In the end, there is no solution imposed on Ludovic. We simply look at her from above, hoping that she will be strong enough to overcome the hurdles yet to come.

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