On Air (2012)

8 Feb

On Air

Pierre Pinaud has already found some acclaim for his short film Early Frost, and with his debut fetaure, On Air (French title: Parlez-vous de moi), he is destined to garner even greater accolades.

Karin Viard stars as Claire Martin, who, in her work life, is the voice of the anonymous but nationally renowned “Melina”, a life advice radio announcer. However, in her real life Claire is extremely introverted, isolated and terrified of human contact, hiding away in her expensive yet barren Parisian apartment. After receiving a letter that reveals the identity of her biological mother that gave her away at birth, Claire embarks on a journey to seek her out in the outer suburbs of Paris. What she finds is a family whose life is entirely opposite to her own – poor and working class yet affectionate and close-knit. Finding herself unable to tell any of them the truth Claire pretends to volunteer at her biological mother’s goodwill store, maintaining an often farcical facade and developing an unusual connection with her much younger step-nephew Lucas.

The plot itself may sound like the stuff of generic light comedy, another product of the oh-so-quirky French film industry that we’ve all come to know so well. Which is why On Air is such a wonderful yet heart-breaking surprise. There is plenty of light comedy, but ultimately this film is a deeply moving and poignant story of loneliness and longing. A lot of credit has to be given to Pinaud. He has such a light touch that It is astounding to think that this is Pinaud’s first feature film – his script and direction have a maturity usually only evident in veteran filmmakers.

On Air was always going to hinge on its leading lady and Karin Viard is nothing short of a revelation. As Melina the radio advice she is warm and open; as Claire she is cold and introverted yet these transformations and the contradictions they entail are entirely believable and thus all the more compelling. Viard has that rare capacity to make even the tiniest gesture resonate. Claire and her myriad of internal conflicts are utterly hilarious, heart-wrenching and truly mesmerising. In the end, On Air is the kind of film that remains with you long after you leave the theatre.


By Tessa Clews


On Air opens in New Zealand cinemas on February 7th. For ticketing information and session times visit: http://nz.rialtodistribution.com


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