Cassandre (Adèle Exarchopoulos) isn’t inclined to answer the phone much at all in “Zero Fucks Given,” but she’s on the line for longer than expected with a cell phone company rep hoping to sign her up to a different data plan. The fact that the woman is a stranger actually helped her get through in all likelihood, with calls from Cassandre’s family sent straight to voicemail and while she’s willing to find out what it’ll take to eliminate the international charges she’s been racking up during her work as a flight attendant, the engagement becomes the first serious engagement she’s had in a while when she’s asked for approval to make changes to the account, requiring the consent of a loved one whose death has led her to avoid all other calls.
As emotions sneak up on her, they are bound to do so on one watching Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre’s wily, seriocomic drama, which is never as brash in conceit as you might expect from the title, but formally daring as it expresses the quarter life crisis of a flight attendant who finds herself stuck on the runway. With a loose-limbed narrative initially reminiscent of Andrew Bujalski’s “Funny Ha Ha,” Cassandre’s life is presented in pieces, with her day job tending to customers in the skies above clashing with her after-hours pursuits, seeking one-night stands over texts and Tinder in whatever city she’s in at the time. Her choice of profession has suited her well when it means she has no attachments to worry about, but it has also meant she has little to drive her, only vaguely interested in career advancement and no relationship to pour herself into.
Lecoustre and Marre bring things into focus a little more quickly for an audience than for Cassandre, waiting for some time to reveal why she’s been distracted but inventively conveying the impact it’s had on her immediately, using the film’s sound as a form of consciousness, letting some thoughts and conversations carry over from one scene to another and even anticipating some, when she dreads the admonitions of her officious supervisor or the other uncomfortable conversations she can expect to have connected to her recent loss.
While Exarchopoulos has often played the ingenue following her revelatory turn in “Blue is the Warmest Color,” there’s a curiosity she hasn’t been able to express as much when she’s been cast for her considerable poise and she has a magnetic pull that affords Lecoustre and Marre to construct an adventurous narrative which literally has to sync up, potentially meandering as Cassandre goes in search of a peace of mind she may never find, but increasingly more focused and fascinating as her contradictory behavior starts making sense, having an easy way with people she doesn’t know but perplexed at dealing with those she’s most closely connected to.
Although it would be criminal to reveal the ending of “No Fucks Given,” it’s safe to say the filmmakers turned a potentially catastrophic event, when filming clearly overlaps with the COVID-19 pandemic, into a more profound conclusion since one knows the isolation that Cassandre has felt extends to the entire world and without putting too fine a point on it, opens up at least one commonality that suggests we’re less alone than anyone might think.
“Zero Fucks Given” will screen at Cannes as part of Semaine de la Critique on July 11th at 5 pm and 10:30 pm at Miramar and July 12th at 8:30 am at Miramar, 6 pm at Studio 13 and 9 pm at Alexandre III.