“SO LONG BILLIE”
A Contemplative Journey
“So Long Billie” (“Pompei”) takes us on a contemplative journey to the heart of a small community that is governed by unwritten laws, where generations come together and where everyone is welcomed if they can pay their debt. When this world, is confronted with a love that does not respect its rules of “sharing”, trouble begins.
We feel a little detached and dissimulated with the reality the film is set in even though we understand the basic setting— a land where there are no adults and the children take care of themselves. It is set in a place that has lost its true essence and the new civilization doesn’t really understand where to start. Deep loneliness has set and every day is filled with by strange rules and rituals.
The community of children has small children who have been burdened by a lack of care and this is why rules that are set by their self-appointed leader Toxou (Vincent Rottiers). There are engravings on the walls that they lived in that show their lack of learning and the dissimulated past, present and future in which there is no difference.
The kids need to have money in order to see their elders and if they don’t come up with the money… There is a much older person who these kids seem to owe but it is never clearly mentioned why Jimmy and Toxou work for him but we get the idea that something is owed. Since there is no societal norm for these bunch, they mostly do as they please.
The chaos that is brought out by a lack of guidance blocks the entire steps to growing and ruins the possibilities of finding and understanding love. Love is alien. The major conflict occurs right before Jimmy is supposed to turn 13. The group’s ritual demands that a 13-year-old must have sex in order to make the transition into a man.
The two brothers have had a bond of mutual understanding. Which is why Jimmy and Victor seem more grounded in reality than the others. They share the same house and do everything together. However, when Billie (Garance Marillier) enters the picture, the relationship between Jimmy and Victor slowly falls apart. Bille has a penance for violence and deep-rooted father issues and a family who doesn’t understand her.
Directors John Shank and Anna Falguères investigate interesting themes of empathy, escapism, and loneliness. However, except for cinematographer Florian Berutti’s beautiful frames and a consistently gloomy score nothing really comes together. In spite of the three fascinating characters at its center, the film remains empty with a lot left unsaid.
“So Long Billie” tests patience. Victor (Aliocha Schneider) is characterized as the rebel but the film doesn’t reveal more about him. This ignorance is reflected in the drawing of each figure. Billie is an angry, precocious girl, with a veil of ignorance about her character motivation behind the awakening of sexuality. As a result, a large part of the film hangs in suspense between premonition and standstill. Neither the children nor the young people are allowed to break out of their imposed role models. We don’t get the feeling of getting closer to a group of children who have gotten on the wrong track and are all drive-controlled.