2022 / drama / France, Belgium / original title : DALVA / 87'’ / Color / status : completed / French / General Audience / All Rights / International catalogue
Dalva, 12, lives alone with her father. One evening, the police storms into their home and takes her into foster care. As Dalva befriends her new roommate Samia and social worker Jayden, she gradually comes to understand that the love she shared with her father was not what she thought. With their help, Dalva will learn to become a child again.
In this poignant debut feature, Emmanuelle Nicot explores the ramifications of abuse with deep sensibility and uncompromising grace, in a hopeful journey to recovery.
“A rewarding and thought-provoking watch that marks Nicot as a promising talent. Nicot takes a sensitive approach to a tough subject. The key here is perspective: almost everything is shown from the point of view of a victim who has been taken into care, and who doesn’t realize she has been abused. Watching the truth slowly dawn upon her gives this film real tension, while also providing the possibility of recovery and enlightenment. Nicot shows great empathy for the child’s confusion. So much hinges on the performance from Samson, and she delivers, veering between a bolshy mini-adult to a fragile young girl. The film isn’t afraid of sentiment, but it stays on just the right side, recalling Short Term 12.”
Deadline - Anna Smith
“With this solid feature debut, Emmanuelle Nicot handles the film’s uncomfortable themes with sensitivity, without tipping over into the realms of sensationalism. The stripped-down simplicity of the filmmaking – the score is subtly wafting and inobtrusive, the camera is firmly attached to Dalva and her point of view – means that the much of the weight of the storytelling is carried by the performances of the young cast. Of these, Guirassi brings an eye-catching abrasive energy to her role, and Samson is excellent, navigating Dalva’s emotional journey with honesty and insight.”
Screen - Wendy Ide
“A quietly powerful and assured debut feature, showing great potential. A sensitively handled exploration that navigates dark subject matter with compassion, warmth and great performances. The success of Love According to Dalva as compelling drama hinges squarely on the casting of its young heroine. Nicot and her mostly female team have done excellent work here: Samson is a real discovery, with an uncanny face that morphs from prematurely sophisticated baby-doll Lolita to punky tomboy to vulnerable child. The dreamy cinematography, full of intimate close-ups and minute detail, underscores the queasy sense of Dalva cautiously rediscovering and reclaiming her body after years of outside control.”
The Film Verdict - Stephen Dalton
“Impactful. Nicot takes pains to keep all the abuse offscreen in the backstory and never exploits her young leading actor, a non-professional with tremendous presence. Nicot coaxes equally naturalistic, penny-bright turns from the rest of the young cast.”
The Hollywood Reporter - Leslie Felperin
“A trajectory of reconstruction, and even invention. Dalva tends towards the light, and finally touches on carefree living. Emmanuelle Nicot looks at the aftermath, at reparation. The story is magnified by the performance of the young actress discovered for the occasion. Zelda Samson lends her bubbling energy, first rebellious then increasingly luminous, to Dalva, a thwarted child who is finally given the time to discover adolescence at her own pace.”
Cineuropa - Aurore Engelen
“An explosion from within, a silent shockwave: that’s how to describe the effect of Emmanuelle Nicot’s first feature.”
“« A superb study of girlhood interrupted. The film finds room for humor and laughter, for pathos and catharsis. Nicot encourages us to look at Dalva not with pity but with grace. It’s an astounding feat of filmmaking, particularly for the way it avoids facile moralistic or didactic approaches to telling Dalva’s story. Instead it does what cinema is so well-suited to accomplishing, allowing us to inhabit another person’s consciousness by seeing the world through their eyes, their pain and even their trauma. A towering performance by young Zelda Samson, thrilling and ripping. She is luminous. »”
Variety - Manuel Betancourt