By Katie Small
French school teacher Rachel (charmingly portrayed by Virginie Efira) is approaching menopause and is happy with her life, her career, her friends, her family, her weekly guitar lessons. But when she falls in love with the dashing Ali, she also falls for his four-year-old daughter, Leila. As their lives become intertwined, her attachment to the little girl grows, forcing Rachel to reckon with a budding desire to have children of her own.
Other People’s Children is a subtle and powerful drama about a strong and sensitive woman wrestling with universal, complex emotions. Rachel’s biological clock ticks on as she navigates complicated relationships with Ali, Leila, and his ex-wife, as well as her students, her family, and herself. The ambiguities of womanhood are at the forefront of director Rebecca Zlotowski’s fifth feature.
Graceful, gentle, and unpretentious, Other People’s Children premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival and is featured in Sundance Film Festival’s Spotlight section. During the post-screening Q&A, Zlotowski is joined onstage with producer Frédéric Jouve. “Did you like it?” Zlotowski asks the crowd to enthusiastic applause. “I hope you cried. I’m such an Ashkenazi Jewish person,” She adds, laughing. “I hope you cried. And also laughed a little bit, and also got horny a little bit. I’m still French!” she says amidst audience laughter.
The plot of Other People’s Children closely mirrors Zlotowski’s personal experiences in trying to become a mother. During pre-production she discovered that she was pregnant, and says that this surprise gave her a healthy distance and objectivity while telling Rachel’s story.
“I was happy to depict a character that would be bigger than life in a way, because she’s braver than I am in my life -– she’s the way I would want to be, the way I would want to react,” Zlotowski says. “I want those adult [reactions] and mature emotions to be made empathetic.”
Zlotowski was a teacher herself before becoming a filmmaker, and commented on how this has informed her views on relationships. “We do not have to be a mother biologically in order to [make an impact], to create families,” she says. In the film, Rachel’s mentorship of a struggling student provides her with purpose and emotional fulfillment. “If even one person remembers you, it means that you built something of your life,” Zlotowski says.