Francois Ozon :: France :: 2008 :: 1h30
Katie is a single mother living a simple life with her 7 year old daughter till the day she meets Paco. Their love story becomes the seed of new life – baby Ricky. The happiness of the new arrival changes their household, as they take care of the demanding baby. But that is not all that is different. Ricky himself is not quite like other babies.
Francois Ozon takes us on a fantastic voyage through an all too ordinary world. The world of Katie and Paco is one of factory workers and scooters, of grey skies and grey-er buildings. The sceneries are remarkable, with perhaps most noticeably the building Katie lives in, which is a story all in itself. It is a futuristic 1970s design left to decay, as if the bright future which was once envisaged has been abandoned by society. But of course, Katie and her daughter are still there. But that is exactly it, they are just there, they too have trouble looking forward. The future, to them, is an abstraction too far away. That leaves Ricky being born into the present, but even there, it is a heavily impoverished present.
Katie takes her decisions on the spur of the moment, all the time. We do not see her invest in herself or in her daughter. Not once do we see her reading or practicing any kind of hobby, nor do we see her learning her daughter anything. Paco, when he is in the picture, does not play the parent either -teach the girl to ride the scooter or something! It is a desolate concrete world where love is subjected to pride and not an emotion which carries people together on life’s path. Love is but a momentary expression. Love is neither a source for rejoice nor tragedy, mostly because it is as empty as the future before them. Lest it not be clear – this is not a happy world.
Between the world we see, and the quality of the film, there is a clear parallel: Ricky is, surprisingly enough, a heavily flawed film. Besides unnecessary imperfections which should not be found in the work of a top director (helmet strap undone, then closed), time and time again throughout the film, the characters show themselves as unrealistic. Katie is both a simple woman and a traumatized one. She hurts herself with her pride, her selfishness, cruelty and weakness, all at the same time. Summing it up like that, you might think, why not, but Katie, as the other characters, just do not work as independent elements in the story. They could have been just elements to contribute to the overall story but the movie does not unfold like that either. It is not excluded, however, that you are willing to accept the characters. After all, who is to be the judge of what characters will do or say? But even if you do accept them, they are still not very convincing.
So what about the story? Well, it’s completely unbelievable. If Ricky was ever born in real life, there would not only be the world’s press at his doorstep to record his every breath, every religious leader of any importance would be there, and probably half of mankind would embark on a pilgrimage somewhere. Ricky is the child mankind has been waiting for – it is not credible by any stretch of the imagination that that would go by in local-celebrity-style relative anonymity. If the tale is to keep its premise, it should unfold very differently. Either in strict anonymity or there should have been TV flashes on the background with religious sects going suicidal, a thousand white doves released and flying over New Dehli and such.
There are wonderfully ironic -or not- plot twists possible from the premise, and I can not help but feel that all the wonderful options have been left aside. The whole movie could have been a Fontaine-type parable, it could have been a religious (/atheist) mockery, a Darwinian science fiction or even a fantasy-humour cross-over. Ricky is such a challenging project that I can only commend Ozon on having tried it, but really, his heart was not in it. As it stands, this is just not good enough.