Quick Cuts: 5 Questions with Laetitia Dosch

The star of Jeune Femme talks to Demetrios Matheou about her breakthrough role in feature debut director Léonor Serraille's acclaimed film.

What's your take on Paula?
It's a dream character. For me, actually, she’s like a little sister. She's always on the line between being comical and tragic, being a bitch and being loveable.

Jeune Femme

What's driving her?
She’s a survivor. She has nothing – no money, no friends, no love. So she has to find those things. She lives in the present. She's curious about others – I like that about her. She's someone who likes life, whatever happens. 

Jeune Femme

How did you juggle her contradictions? 
For each scene we had to decide how funny she would be, or desperate, or strong. What I loved is that I knew I could try different colours. Then Leonor and the editor would find the right note for the scene. 

But the thing is, we had very little money, so the shoot was just 25 days, with five sequences a day – normally it's one, two, three max, not five – often covering different periods in the story. I made a lot of graphs, so I always knew what mood Paula was supposed to be in. 

Jeune Femme

Did you improvise?
Not a lot. Not even in the psychiatric scene in the hospital, which was comprised of three pages of script, with incoherent thoughts, very hard to play. But it was written that way. I improvised maybe one line. 

Jeune Femme

How did you find working with a mostly female crew?
What was interesting about the crew for me was not the gender, but the age. They were all young, around 25, 30-years-old, most of them coming from the same school, La Fémis. And Paula was important for them. Everybody was coming to make suggestions all of the time – about her hair, or what props she should be playing with, many things. They were very fond of her.

For people their age in France today, to find a job is quite easy but to find a job you want is very hard, even if you study. To fulfil yourself in your work becomes less and less important, because it's more and more difficult. And so what might be more important is the connections you create with others.  

Jeune Femme

[Words by Demetrios Matheou]

Jeune Femme

First-time filmmaker Léonor Serraille and the dazzling Laetitia Dosch burst onto the scene with Jeune Femme, a raucous and playful portrait of a woman in her early 30s in Paris. Following in the footsteps of Frances Ha and Fleabag, it’s a sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always relatable nod to the chaos and candour of modern life.

Neurotic and manic, bold and magnetic, Paula (Dosch) is a muddle of contradictions. Fresh from an unceremonious dumping by her boyfriend of 10 years, she finds herself wandering the streets of Paris - jobless, homeless and single - with no idea of what life holds for her next. At 31 years old, with little to show for it but a kidnapped cat and a sense of adventure, she sets out to reinvent herself - new job, new friends, new life - and finds that these things never do come easily.

Testament to the talent of its nearly all-female filmmaking crew, Jeune Femme picked up the coveted Camera d’Or prize for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival 2017. Anarchic, complicated and undeniably charming, this is the French hot-mess heroine we’ve long been waiting for.

Jeune Femme plays in cinemas and on demand from Friday 18 May.