Stan is a successful script writer running out of steam, struggling to get his new script written. He's a chain-smoking alcoholic who lost his wife in a car crash, and just can't see the joy of life. He lives with his daughter, Charlotte, who blames him for the death of her mother.
Out of all the films Charlotte Gainsbourg has been in, I've only really seen those of Lars von Trier and "The Cement Garden". These were enough to become a fan of her work - I even occasionally put on her music, even though it's not my taste. When I noticed Njutafilms had released one of her earliest films, directed by her own father (who also plays the role as her father in the movie), my interest peaked. I didn't know anything about her father and certainly not about the controversies regarding him and her daughter. How he recorded a song with her, when she was just 13 years old, called "Lemon Incest". And then made this film just two years later, which certainly has its share of controversial subjects as well.
It's hard to be sure who is the true lead character in the movie - is it Charlotte or her father Stan? I know, it could be both, but at the same time there's just never a certainty who to feel what for. It's about a script writer who lost his wife in a car crash that his daughter blames him for. He's an alcoholic and he's tired of life. The daughter misses her mother but has to live with the person she thinks got her killed, and he just happens to be her father. The situation isn't less complicated with the addition of her uncle, who is also her father's employer. Within this mess there's always the father-daughter bond that can't be broken, no matter what.
What makes this the controversial film that it is, is not only that we see much of young Charlotte's naked body, but that Serge wrote and directed a film with incestous undertones and then decided to play the lead role with his daughter as the co-star. It's hard not to think about this when you watch the film and even though there's never any true incest within the film, it's stapled into your mind.
The tone of the film is very hard to define. Sometimes lonely and dramatic, sometimes just strange and unrelatable, and then it just turns to some scenes with comedic effect. But what makes the film worth watching is the acting of the two Gainsbourgs. Serge's acting is so realistic that you become even more focused on what part of this film is true and what isn't. You can feel the anxiety through the screen whenever he's on. Then we have the 15 year old Charlotte, just starting out with her career. A brave role to take for a young girl, but she does it so well, so sheltered. She's obviously born with a talent for it and it's a joy to watch her in this film.
Now, there is one thing I wasn't fond of. The soundtrack. Not that the title track "Charlotte For Ever", sung by the two Gainsbourgs, is a bad song (although it's so disturbingly "sexy" in its tone). It's actually a song that instantly got stuck in my head. But this and one other specific song are so overplayed within the film that the chosen moments lose some of the seriousness that was intended whenever you hear that musky, almost horny voice sing "Chaaaarloootte...!". Even though I have no idea what they sing in it, it creeps me out.
"Charlotte For Ever" is a show reel of talent from Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg - father and daughter. The entire film is carried by their acting, their real and their fictive bond, their anxiety. Not a lot happens and I had wished for a different ending, but it's not a movie I could say is bad. The mood is very hard to define as it's never just "sad" or "funny". In that sense it's true to life, yet it never feels like reality. And of course, be warned - you will see more of a young woman than you should!