Pierre (JEAN-PHILIPPE ECOFFEY) and Hanna Fabres (MICHELE LAROQUE) have just moved into a suburb in Brussels with their four children, Thom (GREGORY DIALLO), Jean (ERIK CAZALS DE FABEL), Zoe (CRISTINA BARGET) and Ludovic (GEORGES DU FRESNE). Things seem going well for them as Pierre has a new job with their new neighbor, Albert Brun (DANIEL HANSSENS), whose wife Lisette (LAURENCE BIBOT) and the rest of the neighbors seem to like the Fabres.
A problem develops, however, when Ludovic, their seven-year-old son, tells his hip grandmother, Elisabeth (HELENE VINCENT), that he thinks he's really a girl. It seems he would rather play with some popular dolls, Pam and Ben, than with more traditional boy-oriented toys. While the family brushes that off as just part of being a kid, they get worried when he later states that he's going to marry Albert and Lisette's son, Jerome (JULIEN RIVIERE) when he (Ludovic) "grows up and becomes a girl." Soon that creates increasing levels of tension not only within the family, but also between Pierre and his boss Albert. As the family tries everything to set Ludovic straight, they find themselves at worsening odds with the neighbors, other parents, and among themselves.
OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Films that deal with sexual identity crises usually show adults or, at minimum, teenagers who are confused about who they are. In a world where, for the most part, gender identity is enforced from birth with adults dressing boys in blue and girls in pink, sometimes things don't gel properly and fail to meet the norms. Thus, the reality of transvestites, transsexuals, and those who've undergone sex change operations. What makes 'My Life In Pink" stand out, and what might just generate a lot of controversy around it, is the fact that the sexually confused character isn't an adult, or even a teenager. It's a seven-year-old boy who thinks God goofed up and mistakenly made him a boy. In his mind, things will be resolved when he grows up and becomes a girl and marries Jerome, his dad's boss' son.
If that sounds upsetting to you, then first time Belgian director Alain Berliner and screenwriter Chris vander Stappen have succeeded in shaking up the norms. They've created a stereotypically homogeneous anywhere-in-the-world suburbia and added an interesting catalyst to stir things up. While this sounds a lot like the subject of a tabloid-type made for TV movie, the film makers have infused it with enough fantasy segments to soften that appearance. Those moments also diffuse the uglier moments when the true spirit -- or lack thereof -- emanates from the parents as well as others who condescendingly look down on the young boy and his family.
What also keeps the film from becoming a "freak show" is that the boy isn't doing this to get attention and he certainly can't comprehend what all of the fuss is about. He figures his situation was the result of a simple mistake and, using his childhood logic, figures it's an easy thing to fix. For the film to work, the main character has to be completely believable and the film makers lucked out in finding young Georges du Fresne. With his innocent look and his unisex ("It's Pat!") haircut, he could easily pass for a boy or girl. It's his innocent gaze that has near touches of an adult worldliness, however, that is quite simply amazing to behold in someone so young, let alone a newcomer to the world of making movies.
The rest of the performers range from decent to good, the latter of which includes the boy's parents played by Hanna Fabres and Jean-Philippe Ecoffey. Both actors are allowed to portray varying degrees of reactions to the unfolding events, and Ecoffey soundly plays the father whose own masculinity is threatened by his son's behavior. It's Fabres, however, who stands out as the mother who's initially supportive, but eventually breaks down and just can't handle the pressure anymore. Her reactions seem quite genuine and believable, and she brings some much needed humanity to the picture.
Some minor problems do arise, however, in relation to these character shifts. While it's quite realistic that a parent's reaction in such a situation would often change, here those moments often feel forced or occur too quickly. It's a minor objection, but they have an awkward feel to them, especially when the father -- who initially has the worst reactions -- suddenly adopts a "damn the torpedoes" attitude and more fully supports his son. Likewise, the neighbor's collective reactions later in the film don't really ring true as they have the look and feel of those zombie movies from the 1950's when such characters would slowly shuffle after the besieged family.
Of course, so much of the film includes fantasy sequences that you're never quite sure what's supposed to be real and what's not exactly on the up and up. Some moments are obvious, and include the boy's imagination of meeting the live action version of his favorite doll, or flying across the neighborhood, or marrying his best male friend.
Part of that fantasy element comes from Berliner's inspired choice of set designs and colors. The use of clearly evident pastel hues shows that the film isn't meant to be taken too seriously (after all, how many vivid pink garage doors have you ever seen?) The film's production design is set up to show what happens when an idealistic, pastel-colored world suddenly has a hole torn straight through it. Convincingly enough, once the problems start creeping in, the film loses much of that color (except during more fantasy sequences) as the world worsens for Ludovic and his family.
Looking beyond the boy's obvious treatment, the story in fact, is really about the parents. More concerned with how others see them than by how they view themselves or their son, it's their homogenous, "Leave it to Beaver" world of neighborly parties and carpools that crumbles. Their son, who has no problems being seen as different, simply knows what he's supposed to be and adapts. Instead, it's the parents and the other adults who can't cope with this change.
While this might sound heavy handed regarding the notions of accepting others the way they are or not to fall prey to being like everyone else, its lighthearted approach makes the message bearable. 1997's Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language film, the movie manages to make its point while still being entertaining, mainly due to Ludovic's escapist fantasies and parts of the movie's overall tone that keep it from being too much of a downer.
Some viewers may find the offerings too odd and/or offensive for their tastes. For those who don't, however, they may find this picture to be an offbeat, but mostly pleasant experience. While you're never quite sure what will happen next, and although the film doesn't really end per se, it is an interesting, and rather unusual story to behold in a darkened theater. We give "Ma Vie En Rose" (My Life In Pink) a 6.5 out of 10.
During a particular sociology module I took last semester, the movie screening of "My Life In Pink" touched on interesting points of how much the social agents around us, may it be primary or secondary agency, influence our perceptions of gender formation, especially at a very young age. As much as we want to make choices in forming our own identity, we're expected to conform to society's mindset and perceptions on what is appropriate and can be accepted. In laying such ground, before a child could actually showcase him or herself to the "public" or the society at large, parents or families being the main agency in the process of socialisation plays a big role in portraying the norm or society's expectation. Furthermore, society can easily blame the families if the child were to grow up not conforming to the norms or society's expectation. Taking the movie as a form of analysis, Ludavick (the main character) is biologically a boy, but choose to dress up as a girl, wearing his mum's earrings etc. At first, his parents were not pressurised by their son's such appearances thinking that such dress up is just "for fun" or part of a joke; their concerns emerged only when the neighbours started to realise that Ludavick wasn't acting as what a boy "suppose to be" and avoided him and the whole family. Ludavick became attracted to one of their neighbour's son and even had a role play of him being the wife wearing a gown whiles his friend being the husband wearing shirt and pants. Here we can see that firstly, the society perceive one's gender through clothes it acts as a signifier of one's gender. Secondly, types of toys small children play deemed to be reflecting ones gender in this movie. When Ludavick was brought to psychiatrist for counselling, he was asked to choose between a football and the Barbie doll. Associating the ball with a boy and the Barbie doll with a girl, we would like him to choose the ball over the doll, but knowing his character, we can expect him to choose the Barbie. Such distinctions reflect the different gendered structure of meaning. Another point which has been brought up in the movie is how mass media also play a role in influencing gender formation. Ludavick was highly influenced by a Barbie-doll-like fairy character which he watches on television. He fantasizes that one day he could be as pretty as her, live in a garden paradise and have prince charming to save him from misery. The kind of attachment he feels with the fairy character strengthened up his urged to become a girl rather than a boy. Does this mean "opposites attract"? Does the adoration for the fairy is really the cause for his decision to be a girl rather than a boy? In one of the scenes, he even believed that he was born with XY chromosomes but Y chromosome dropped halfway, therefore explaining why he turned out to be "girlish". It is indeed a joke to think as such because we know that biology does not determine gender. Nevertheless, it is important to note that although biology has consequences to our gender, it is the way we interpret ourselves vis-à-vis the others that would influence our gender construction.
The film revealed a lot about somewhat-universal gender practices which take shape in early childhood. Ludovic, despite being physiologically a boy, rebels and cries when his hair has to be cut, is reprimanded when he puts on his mother's cosmetics and his sister's dress and eventually, takes actions into his own hands by locking Sophie in the changing room while he takes her place on the "stone bed", lying in anticipation for the prince to revive him with a kiss of love. We know that Ludovic is behaving like a girl not because of his rather gender ambiguous features at his tender age, but because he is acting feminine and seeking to exemplify feminine traits like keeping long hair, wearing gentle/demure clothing and the desire "to be woo-ed".
I like it that Ludovic's grandmother came into his life to allow him to manifest his gender expressions - dancing together with him in their living room back home and also being so free with her own body that it encourages Ludovic to dance in the party.
Ma Vie en Rose follows the adolescent life of Ludovic, a seven year old boy in suburban Belgium. Ludovic can't wait to grow up to be a woman. When his family discovers the little girl blossoming in him they are forced to contend with their own discomfort and the lack of understanding from their new neighbors, one who happens to be his father's new boss. Their anger and impatience cave and Ludovic is sent to see a psychiatrist in the hopes of fixing whatever is wrong with him. The situation worsens when it is discovered that Ludovic staged a fantasy wedding between himself and the new neighbor's son. The whole town turns on the family and they are forced out of town. Ludivoc's family has to move to another town where they learn that Ludovic is not alone.
Ma Vie en Rose is just wonderful. It is refreshing to see a movie that discusses an issue that is usually taboo. Dealing with children and "sexual" issues is something that is rarely seen in film. Ma Vie en Rose deals with issues that manyu children have to deal with. At this time in a child's life, they try to find out where they fit in this male/female, two-gender system. When a child thinks he/she is not what he/she appears to be, no one ever takes him/her seriously. It is seen as a phase that one will grow out of. But...this is a time when these issues should be taken very seriously. The problem is that not many people know that these issues actually appear is children this young. The overlook them. This movie throws them in our faces and forces us to confront and acknowledge that they exsist. The issues are depicted through reality based and fantasy based scenes.
Ludovic is brilliantly depicted by Georges Du Fresne. He just is such a pretty little boy. With long hair in the beginning of the movie, you would never be able to tell if he was really a boy or a girl. You can really feel the anguish in his eyes when, to conform to society, he had to get his hair cut very short. I know how he felt, and almost cried myself.
The best character, other than Ludovic, has to be his Grandmother. She is the most unjudgemental of all. I could not really understand whether she was just "playing along" with him, or just treating him like a grandchild, and not like a grandson. After many years of no contact, the bond between Ludivic and his grandmother is just beautiful to watch.
This movie is not just about a child and his exploration of his perceived gender identity. It is more about what one child can do to the dynamics of a family. The very conservative nature of Ludovic's family and the town in which they live does not allow something of this nature to exsist quietly. Something as taboo as your son wearing dresses and thinking he's a girl caused Ludovic's family to turn on each other and for the town to turn on the whole familky, driving them out of town. This is a lesson learned day after day by anyone who goes outside the normal social constraints. It's just a reality of life that is not seen in film. Only a foreign filmmaker can produce a film with this sort of message. American film studios would never let this movie be produced.
I have read many a comment about this movie. I have come up with the conclusion that people see this movie for what they want it to be. Some see it as educational. Some ignore the irrational "R" rating and show it to anyone who can read subtitles, no matter the age. Some don't want movies like this to be produced. Some people don't understand this movie at all. The bottom about Ma Vie en Rose is that it tells a very heavy story in a beautiful, tasteful and lighthearted manner. Brilliant acting and brilliant cinematography makes this a movie that anyone and everyone, no matter the age, should see.
This is a charming French film about a little boy, Ludovic, who
moves with his parents and three older siblings into a bourgeoise French
suburban neighborhood where all the houses and all the minds pretty much
conform to the same mold--can we call it "The French Dream?" Ludo,
however, has different dreams and he longs to be like Pam, a fantasy t v
character who lives in a fantasyland where one's dreams come true. Pam and
her boyfriend Ben also come in doll versions that look very similar to
Barbie and Ken, but it is Pam not Ben that Ludo dreams of becoming. At
the backyard picnic housewarming party the new family throws, the father
introduces his wife and children to the crowd of neighbors only to be
completely flummoxed when Ludovic comes out of the house in a pink dress,
red pumps, with makeup and earrings on and flowers in his long bobbed
hair. His heart-rending explanation, "I only wanted to be pretty."
While his parents tell themselves that this is just a phase that
he ought to have grown out of by now, one of the new neighbors, Jerome, a
boy in Ludo's class whose father happens to be Ludo's father's boss, has
noted the goings on with interest. In school the next day during Show and
Tell, Ludo brings his Pam and Ben dolls while Jerome brings a toy truck,
however, the cargo it's carrying is one of the earrings Ludo had worn at
the weekend party. That breaks the ice and they become friends. Shortly
thereafter they are playing at Jerome's house and Ludo goes into Jerome's
dead sister's room and is taken with the beauty of one of her dresses. In
the next scene Ludo, wearing the dress, and Jerome are playing wedding and
vowing their eternal love when Jerome's mother finds them an faints dead
From then on in the film is a comedic look at a not so funny
thing, the discomfort and bigotry and hatred of conventionally minded
people toward those who do not stay within the rigidly defined boundaries
of sexual and gender identity. Ludo struggles to figure out whether he is
a girl or a boy. (His assumption was that he was a boy but would
eventually become a girl).
Jerome refuses to talk to him or sit with him because his parents have
told him he'll fry in hell if he does. They think he's sick so they send
him to a psychologist . The father blames the mother for treating him too
much like the girl she really wanted. They try humoring him in the hopes
that cross dressing will be less attractive to him once it's not
forbidden. Kids beat him up at school while his older brothers stand by
and let it happen. His parents are at one another's throat and the
father insists that Ludo cut his long hair so he'll look more like a
boy. His father tries to teach him to play soccer and spend more time
with him "man to man." When his sister shows him what her biology book
says about XX and XY chromosomes, Ludo thinks that God gave him the wron
chromosomes and he'll fix his mistake eventually. When anti-gay graffiti
is spray painted on their garage door and his father loses his job even
his mother, who had been supportive of Ludo, turns against him.
For all that, the film is a comedy because it's spoofing all this
panic and fear and prejudice. And it has a happy ending that I won't
spoil for you. It's filmed in vivid colors, especially the fantasy
scenes, but others as well because the idyllic neighborhood in which
the family first lives is, itself, a fantasy world. And you can't help
feeling for Ludovic who is so innocent and confused and hurt by
everybody's trying to get him to be how they want him to be instead of how
he feels comfortable being. Alas, it's rated "R" though it contains no
sex or violence. I guess the people who do the movie ratings don't want
kids to hear the message that gender bending is fine if that's what you
feel comfortable with. They want to perpetuate the bigotry that the film
is trying in its sweet and funny way to subvert. How ironic.