It follows Rama, a novelist who attends the trial of Laurence Coly at the Saint-Omer Criminal Court to use her story to write a modern-day adaptation of the ancient myth of Medea, but things don't go as expected.
Saint Omer is the latest International Feature submission from France. The incredible director Alice Diop has created one of the most thought-provoking films about motherhood and the universal feeling women share about it.
The film begins with Rama, a teacher and a writer. Her latest novel has been received extremely well and she’s now in the process of beginning her next book. She decides to head to Saint Omer to attend the trial of Laurence Coly, a young woman born in Dakar, Senegal but who has been living in Paris since she was 18.
Laurence, now a 35 year old woman, is accused of killing her 15 month daughter, Elise, by abandoning her in a beach in Berck-Sur-Mer, in Northern France. Elise drowned by the rising tide of the ocean. Laurence doesn’t dispute that she killed her daughter, but she pleads not guilty due to the facts leading up to that day on November 2015.
What follows next is the trial of this woman and the telling of her life, her story, her situation, and why she did it.
Anchored by a terrific and understated performance by Guslagie Malanda, Saint Omer is a slow, detailed, intriguing film where you’re not sure where the film is headed but when you do, you begin to appreciate its full brilliance. It’s a staggering slow-build meditation on motherhood, and the fears associated with it. It’s about the instant bond that’s created between mothers and children and how they’re intertwined with one another in an inextricable manner. It’s a film dedicated to mothers. But on top of that, this film demands empathy from the audience. It is recognizing that there is more to humans that can be summed up in any investigation. After hearing all the facts of the case, no judge and no jury will fully grasp the defendant and who they are as a person. The film begins to question how little we can ever truly know anyone. Let alone ourselves.