Small communities, Catholicism and burgeoning sexuality: not an unfamiliar combination in French debut features. But it’s rarely carried off with such confidence and subtlety as in Katell Quillévéré’s winner of this year’s Jean Vigo Prize for first feature.

Fourteen-year-old Anna (striking newcomer Clara Augarde) has returned home to her village in Brittany, where she and mother Jeanne (Lio) live with Anna’s ailing paternal grandfather Jean (Michel Galabru). Jeanne has fallen out with her husband over her Catholic convictions and has developed a conscience-troubling attraction to the easy-going village priest (Stefano Cassetti). Anna, meanwhile, is caught between her own religious belief and sexual stirrings, awakened by a precocious choirboy friend. Life, death, desire and teenage confusion fuel a contemplative, atmospheric drama with a streak of rebellious black humour, with comic veteran Galabru excelling as the grandfather, irrepressibly raging against piety.

Tom Harari’s photography captures faces and the Breton landscape with equal sensitivity. Love Like Poison (its title taken from a Gainsbourg song) is a genuine one-off and a true discovery.

Jonathan Romney,
BFI London Film Festival