Rodeo review – unpredictable and adrenaline-fuelled debut stuns at every turn
Lola Quivoron’s ferocious first feature follows a young woman looking for her place among Paris’ clandestine community of motorbikers
Thanks to its surprisingly originality and unexpected storytelling, Lola Quivoron’s Rodeo is not an easy film to put a tag on. We're reminded of Titane's smell of gasoline, Girlhood’s musings about living on the margins of Paris, and even Fast and Furious’ impressive heists and action sequences. It could be seen as an auteurist work, a coming-of-age story, or a modern-day western. It is all of these things, and not quite any: Quivoron’s first feature always chooses the least obvious path, and it's all the better for it.
Here, the French filmmaker continues exploring and refining the motocross lore she celebrated in previous works, like the 2016 short film Dreaming of Baltimore. This time, though, Quivoron grants a deeper immersion into this world with a story moving somewhere between fact and fiction, reality and dreams, life and death. She shows bikers as spiritual creatures with chosen families and rough surroundings, in a tale of magic realism fuelled with real adrenaline.
In that sort-of-but-not-quite mythical world, we follow Julia, a young woman whose obsession with velocity takes her to dangerous rodeos – clandestine motorbiking competitions – where she begs for gasoline and tries to keep up with the guys’ dangerous stunts. She is obstinate, audacious and resourceful, sometimes posing as an innocent girl in order to steal bikes from strangers she found on Craigslist.
When Julia meets a member of a band called the B-Mores, she insists on joining them in their illegal pursuits. What she wants, deep down, is to be part of their chosen family. Her ability as a thief earns her a spot in the group, but some of the members are not so keen on having her around. The boss, who runs the operations from prison, has seen her value not only as a member of the band, but also as a companion to his wife and son, who seemed trapped in a golden cage.
Through all these new connections we see the many layers of Julia, a captivating character played with verve by non-professional actor Julie Ledru, who was discovered by Quivoron via her Instagram motocross-centred videos. As difficult to categorise as the film itself, Julia introduces herself as Unknown; she does not want to be observed, defined or seduced. She is rude and unmannered, and rejects racial and gender stereotypes. Julia knows rodeos carry the spirit of the Wild West, and she wants to be the toughest cowboy in town.
Quivoron hangs this beautiful and ferocious film around Julia, who is undoubtedly its heart, and in the process she develops an exciting style that will hopefully flourish in the years to come. Though imbued by her many inspirations, from Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, Lola Quivoron has a unique point of view that allows Rodeo to stand on its own.
Rodeo is released in UK cinemas on 28 April.Where to watch