Andréa Bescond and Eric Métayer / France 2018
The title LITTLE TICKLES sounds like introducing a children’s film. Instead, it tells of the drama of sexual child abuse and its lifelong affect. With her dancing career Andréa Bescond was able to unleash the inner fury and hurt of her young years. It is a disturbing screen adaptation of her award-winning, one-woman stage show, based on her life story. For her performance she received numerous awards including the Académie Française’s Young Talent Award.
This is her film debut, co-directed by Eric Métayer, and begins with a captivating dance sequence in which she vividly confronts what happened to her as a child. Only as an adult in her 30s was she able to talk to a therapist (played by Carole Franck) which slowly unraveled the turmoil of her past experiences. The film oscillates between the child – called Odette – and the adult.
The role of sweet-natured Odette is convincingly mastered by the young Cyrille Mairesse. She is the happy eight-year-old girl who loves to dance and to draw pictures. Her busy parents are thankful that their best friend Gilbert (Pierre Deladonchamps) collects her from school and looks after her. He is always nice and makes her presents. Therefore, what can be wrong when he asks her to play games and to tickle her? It becomes a habit whenever he is alone with her. The insecure little girl gets more and more uncomfortable about it. You very much feel for her and it gives you goose pimples as soon as Gilbert's “friendly” face appears on the screen. Even though these scenes are handled very sensitively, as you never see too much, the psychological impact is hard to bear. You want to interfere but feel as helpless as the innocent child. Any hint of not wanting to be with the charming uncle Gilbert is being ignored by her overpowering mother (Karin Viard). Her father (Clovis Cornillac) brushes away any suspicion by explaining that his best friend enjoys the little girl because he only has three sons.
Odette moves away from home, goes to college and grows up into a wild non-conforming woman, working hard towards her dream of becoming a dancer. Over the years she experiments with various dancing styles, lives a roller-coaster life, including drugs and alcohol, but manages to build a successful professional dancing career. With Lenny (Gregory Montel) she seems to have found her true love. He is an educated, very patient man who comforts and supports her. But her childhood drama threatens any stable relationship and she falls back into her self-destructive habits.
The adult Odette is played by Andréa Bescond herself. She has a captivating screen presence. Her modern dancing style is totally absorbing. The mastery of ballet gives her an emotional escape, providing her control over her body that had been denied to her. This compelling story hits the nerve of our times. Struggling and coming to terms with a haunting past is shown realistically by the relationship with her therapist, making the movie a grippingly honest and emotional experience.