Director: Virginie Verrier
Starring: Garance Marillier, Emilie Dequenne, Sylvie Testud, Fred Testot, Alban Lenoir
A goalscoring machine and a pioneer for the game globally, Marinette Pichon is a legend of women’s football. Until 2020, she held the record for most goals and appearances for the French national team - including both the mens and womens teams - and became the first French footballer to sign professionally for a team in the United States when she joined the Philadelphia Charge in 2002. Throughout her career and beyond, she has lobbied for the game to be made professional in her home country of France and has inspired many to don their boots and play the beautiful game.
Now, her story has been brought to the big screen by Virginia Verrier for the world to see and remember once more. The always-wonderful Garance Marillier assumes the role of Pichon, and, unsurprisingly delivers a strong performance as the film highlights the sporting highs and lows of Pichon, alongside her troublesome upbringing with an abusive father, and struggles with her sexuality against an unsympathetic media. Marinette had a lot to cover in its brisk ninety five minute runtime, and in choosing to include so much of Pichon’s life, the film struggles to provide a compelling balance, and instead it feels rushed at times - an additional fifteen to twenty minutes would really have aided the narrative, especially in regards to Marinette’s mother and her later relationships which feel undercooked despite carrying a clear emotional heartbeat.
The story itself is solidly told, though, combined with some interesting cinematography - scenes depicting Pichon’s youth or abuse are bathed in shadows and low lighting, whereas her triumphs bathe in the light. There’s enough throughout to ensure the film remains engaging, and, being a biopic, there’s plenty of clichés to keep things familiar, it just remains tonally imbalanced.
Pichon’s love of game is nicely portrayed throughout, from her tough upbringing in Bar-sur-Aube and early successes in the game through to her turbulent times with the national team - jealousy in her teammates and self-doubt were obvious, as was the lack of ability amongst them due to their amateur status. It’s that final point that provides the book end for the movie. Pichon was axed from her mixed football team at aged 16, having to drop to a lower standard due to lack of funds and support from the women’s game before having her eyes opened following her switch to the USA. Ending on an impassioned speech regarding the French Football Federation’s lack of support in the wake of another French failure, it’s clear the game went everything to Pichon. She loved the game, but did it love her back?
Though Marinette barrels through its narrative at a detrimental pace, Marillier’s dependably strong performance carries the film and provides a fitting tribute to a pioneer of the women’s game. Even if the film itself isn’t one of the best, Pichon was.
MARINETTE had its world premiere at Tribeca Festival on June 11th, 2023.
June 11th 2023