ALL TO PLAY FOR (Rien A Pedre) (Nothing to Lose) (France/Belgium 2023) **

Directed by Delphine Deloget


Delphine Deloget’s ALL TO PLAY FOR is a poorer man’s or rather poor woman’s version of British director Ken Loach's social drams most notably CATHY COME HOME after his first igniting the international screen with the tale of a boy and his kestrel in KES.  Loach knows how to work drama into his characters, often manipulating the contents of his film against authority and government.  ALL TO PLAY FOR looks pale in comparison.

This frequently told tale pits a single mother against France’s social childcare services system.  There is nothing one has not seen before, which is a problem.  The mother, Sylvie played by Virginie Efira (most recognizable after Paul Verhoeven’s BERNADETTE) has her younger son taken away by France’s Child Services after the son, Sofiane (Alexis Tonetti) sets the stove in the kitchen on fire while burning himself trying to make fries.  Elder brother Jean-Jacques also known as JJ (Felix Lefebre) is away on trumpet practice while Sylvie is away at her very difficult job at bartending.  With no adult in the home, Child Care is never too quick at snatching the son to put him in a foster home, especially when Sylvie is not answering their calls.

A fair part of the movie shows Sylvie trying to get Sofiane back through legal channels, which the audience can predict will not work.  She gets letters written to the judge by friends and family but all to no avail.  Her child support group is not that encouraging either, a most are still trying to get thrown children back.  Director Deloget, of course, depicts Sylvie as a tireless and loving mother who would do anything for her two sons.

What’s just barely mentioned and not examined is the foster home the son is sent to.  Is it really that bad?  Or is the son given more decent care with food and friends provided in a different environment?  Though Loach condemns the system in his films whether his doc shows the admin of the nursing home abusing their powers and pitting workers against workers (his film was banned initially in London), director Deloget omits the topic. Sylvie’s family of her two brothers end up of not much help either.  There is her troubled, seizure-prone brother Hervé (Arieh Worthalter) and the other who is not on speaking terms with her.

All this paints a one-sided look at the situation, making France’s Child Services an easy target, though the Chord Service workers are a little sympathetic despite their recommendations.  ALL TO PLAY FOR plays more like a sin gel mother/family drama than a social commentary on Child Services.  Direct Deloget avoids difficult segments.  The son’s burning scene is omitted and only heard of and Child Services takes him away when Sylvie is not around,

Performance-wise, Efira does a suitable job despite the film’s limitations but the prized performance guest Fleix Lefebre as JJ, the elder son.

ALL TO PLAY FOR premiered this year in the Un Certain Regard Section at Cannes and makes a theatrical opening this week starting January 12th.


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