‘Je Suis Un Soldat’: Extraordinary Story, Ordinary Film

Je Suis Un Soldat bowed at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month as director Laurent Lariviere’s feature-length debut, and it was surprisingly disappointing. A story about a young woman who suddenly finds herself working as a dog trafficker, Je Suis Un Soldat could have been so much more than it actually was.

However, what needs to be recognized here is that it demonstrates a great deal of promise from Lariviere. Lariviere delivers a fairly routine movie in Je Suis Un Soldat, though the story is quite unconventional. Louise Bourgoin plays Sandrine, a woman who moves in with her mother and soon starts working at her Uncle Henri’s kennel, which in reality is a center of dog trafficking. So much more could have been done with this film, and it is likely that Lariviere is only too aware of this. However, he does the best he can with the material he has.

The themes of marginalization and despair are almost ignored from a visual standpoint, and it is hard to believe that Lariviere would have let a filming issue of this nature be so universally ignored. To be sure, Bourgoin is far too sunny and sweet an actress to be entirely convincing as a woman who is so down on her luck trying to find employment that she has to engage in dog trafficking, and this definitely has an impact on how these messages are received throughout the movie.

However, Je Suis Un Soldat does have a flair that is something like a documentary, which makes the film a little more interesting to watch than the more traditional films that often bow at Cannes. However, Lariviere has made what could have been an extraordinary film about an extraordinary story something that is a little more run of the mill, and that means Je Suis Un Soldat falters where it could very well have enjoyed much-improved reviews.

There appears to be limited depth to many of the scenes in the movie, although Bourgoin and her co-star Jean-Hughes Anglade, who plays Sandrine’s uncle Henri and the leader of the dog traffickers, try to make the most of it. There is a scene in Je Suis Un Soldat where it appears as though Sandrine is giggling her way through a job interview with a rather snippy sales manager.

While it is a bit of an uneven first effort as far as feature films go, Je Suis Un Soldat is effectively not a bad film. While the viewer will have to suspend a little bit of his or her disbelief in the actual plot of the movie in order to enjoy some of the story and what happens, it does demonstrate some interesting interactions over the course of the movie itself. Je Suis Un Soldat is a decent first feature-length film from director Lariviere. To be sure, the director has given a good effort to build on for the next feature-length film.

[Photo by Dominique Charriau/Getty Images Entertainment]