The French domestic drama Lulu Anew (Amazon, iBooks) starts with a gathering of friends as they attempt to uncover the fate of their friend, Lulu. Why they are together is unknown, but one thing is for certain — Lulu is not there.
We very quickly learn that Lulu, a middle-aged house wife, called her husband Tanquay and told him that enough was enough, checking herself into a hotel for the night for a break. But her exasperation at life fuels more than one night away when she meets a pharmaceutical saleswoman in the hotel bar. The conversation results in the saleswoman offering Lulu a ride to her next business stop, an opportunity to take a little more of a break from her life than originally planned.
As it turns out, it’s much more of a break than originally planned and it borders on escape. Through the disheveled second-hand narratives of Lulu’s friends and her daughter, a travel diary of sorts is pieced together, chronicling Lulu’s encounters with people and the emotions she exchanges with them.
But despite the trappings of plot, you shouldn’t mistake this for a tale of empowerment, where a woman escapes her drab life and comes a live. Instead, it’s like a hard slap of reality, where Lulu goes searching for magic and wonder, but instead just finds that people are people. There are no magical endings and Davodeau avoids any whimsey that might imply a false impression of what the world is about.
Not that Lulu Anew is gloomy — not at all — but in the end, Davodeau is frank about his attitude. Change for yourself comes from yourself, within yourself. You can’t count on other people to exact change for you, since they all have their own circumstances, their own concerns, their own battles. And you can’t conjure magic. As Lulu wanders streets, she is quietly seeking transformation, but acts more like a tourist observing normal life, but shut out of it as she decides whether she wants to live it or.
It’s this down to earth prescription that makes Lulu Anew so integral. The final word is to fix life, not to escape it, and you have to admire Davodeau for taking that avenue rather than cater those who would embrace escapism as a viable way to live life.