Virginie Efira is having a moment right now. A fixture on the film festival circuit, the Belgium-born actress brought Serge Bozon’s Don Juan and Alice Winocour’s Revoir Paris to Cannes last year—she also emceed the proceedings—and received rave reviews for her leading performance in Rebecca Zlotowski’s Other People’s Children, which rippled out of Venice in the fall. This January, Efira received the Unifrance French Cinema Award, a prestigious honor for those carrying the banner for Gallic cinema across the globe, joining the ranks of previous winners such as Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche. Then, just last month, she picked up the Best Actress César (France’s answer to the Oscars) for her role in the aforementioned Winocour film.
Efira first became a household name in Belgium and France as the host of reality programs, and in acting, it wouldn’t take her long before she broke out on to the international scene. In 2016, she found a small part in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, before cementing her status as one of the most versatile and exciting stars of contemporary French cinema with a leading role in the auteur’s Benedetta. This month, Other People’s Children and Revoir Paris make their New York City premieres at the 28th Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In both, Efira paints deeply faceted and viscerally textured portraits of ordinary women that ascend to transmissions of sublime feeling.
Other People’s Children centers on Rachel (Efira), a high school teacher who strikes up a romance with single father Ali (Roschdy Zem) at her nightly guitar lessons. But rather than focusing on their waxing and waning affections, Zlotowski excavates Rachel’s relationship with Ali’s young daughter Leila—often exuberant, at other times fractious, but always laced with the indefinable melancholy of co-parenting with Ali’s ex-wife Alice (Chiara Mastroianni)—all the while longing for a child of her own as she approaches the precipice past which pregnancy would be impossible.
On a much higher dramatic register comes Revoir Paris, inspired by Winocour’s brother’s personal accounts of the 2015 Bataclan massacre. Efira plays Mia, a woman who’s recovering from a terrorist attack on a Parisian restaurant. The shock of its violence has deadened her senses, which eventually pries her away from her partner Vincent (Grégoire Colin) and sets her on a rocky path towards re-integration. Efira navigates both of these stories with deep empathy, for us to share in a vulnerability—that which has been eroded but not entirely compromised by life’s darker passages.
Anthem met up with Efira for a conversation and portrait session during this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. The feature goes live on April 21st. Watch this space for exclusive content.
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema runs from March 2 —12.