Film Review: Alice

It’s no use going back to yesterday, I was a different person then: Alice

Who wouldn’t want to get revenge for a cheating husband?
Seemingly the perfect family unit. Husband, wife and young son, this French film dares to delve beneath the shiny exterior and expose the truth that has wrecked countless marriages, when one partner has an affair. In this instance, it’s François (Martin Swabey), who does the dirty on his attractive, doting wife, Alice Ferrand (played by Emilie Piponnier).

One day he’s there, and the next he’s disappeared, leaving a whole string of questions and consequences, to be explored by the victim Alice, in first-time writer-director Josephine Mackerras’ black comedy. Determined to find out what has happened to her husband, and to save herself from eviction from her beautiful apartment- which she was coerced into putting her life savings inheritance into, she does some detective work using bank statements and phone calls.

Uncovering possibly the worst case scenario for a wife- a direct line to an upmarket escort agency- which he has been using for some time. Further probing shows that he has been tucking into the joint bank account, and stopped paying off their home in the process.

It’s no wonder he has done a runner. A scorned woman, with a low opinion of prostitutes, turns her into an angry, desperate and determined mother. In the hope of tracking down her cheating husband, Alice contacts the agency, and inadvertently gets sucked into the lifestyle and joins the club.

Terrified at first, and paranoid about her double standards, she befriends another escort, Lisa (Chloé Boreham), who takes her under her wing, and tells her what to wear, say and how to perform a useful condom in the mouth trick. Their relationship is cautious at first, as Lisa is in fact the enemy, but provides some lighter aspects to being a call girl. From her first client, you can see Alice’s confidence grow and her power over men blossom. But as she is more in demand, which provides a higher salary, she has less time to spend with her child and relies on babysitters- which is a nod to all working single mothers- whatever their profession.

With her money worries under control, Alice gets used to this new way of life, the sad men she encounters, and her independence, only to find François, repentant and trying to needle his way back into their lives. Desperate for a sitter, she lets him stay over with his son, and a new normal relationship develops. However, François is curious as to her new job and starts to investigate himself by snooping around.

One evening, he exposes her and her new profession, and threatens that if she doesn’t have him back, he would take her to court and get custody of her son. An interesting twist as he is a man who cheated with sex workers- thus exposing both the legal and cultural double standards against female prostitutes and fathers who pay for them.

The question looms over Alice’s head as she can’t bear the thought of losing her child, or taking her husband back; she confides in Lisa, which produces a further twist but as it stands, Lisa is a godsend and is a beacon of female friendship in a fickle industry. Whatever your personal thoughts are on prostitution and escorts, Alice depicts her involvement as a viable money making resolve to her dire situation.

Alice will be released on selected digital platforms (Curzon Home Cinema, The BFI Player, Barbican Cinema On Demand, Amazon Prime Video) from Friday