(Paris) For her fifth feature film, whose headliners are Virginie Efira and Roschdy Zem, Rebecca Zlotowski plunged into her own story to tell a situation rarely treated in cinema, that of someone who, in the of a loving relationship, becomes attached to a child who is not his.

Initially, the director of Grand Central did not really see the point of drawing inspiration from a situation that she had already experienced herself, finding it too banal to make a film. Other People’s Children tells the story of a 40-year-old woman who wants to be a mother, but isn’t. And who is partly raising a 4-year-old girl, to whom she is very attached, whose lover is the father.

“This situation has only happened once in my life, explained the filmmaker during an interview she gave us as part of the Unifrance French Cinema Meetings. But I finally realized that having to say goodbye to a child we loved without him being ours is not only a great heartbreak, but also constitutes a romantic moment that the cinema has not yet really had. recount. »

Abandoning her project to adapt Romain Gary’s novel Beyond this limit your ticket is no longer valid, which deals with impotence, the filmmaker gradually saw her own helplessness appear in the face of her condition as a “mother-in-law “. Rebecca Zlotowski also points out that this term is used for lack of anything else, no word in the French language describing someone who enters a family as a lover of the mother or father of a child. A nameless role, in a way.

“And then the pandemic arrived, underlines the director. This does not change much in the life of a screenwriter, because we live practically in a situation of permanent confinement. The only – and very big – difference is that in normal times, you can still leave home to get inspired, especially since I am often interested in things that are completely foreign to me. There, I had to do the opposite and take inspiration from the only person I was able to see: me! »

The Children of Others thus became the most autobiographical of the feature films made by the one who was revealed in 2010 thanks to Belle épine, winner of the Louis-Delluc prize for best first film. Life has, however, reserved for the filmmaker one of those twists of fate of which she sometimes has the secret.

“I got pregnant while making the movie, when I didn’t believe it anymore! says Rebecca Zlotowski. This gift of life has necessarily changed my outlook on this project. I had written the script in a state of very strong empathy for the character, perhaps even a little too great. Expecting a child during filming created a kind of distance and allowed me to take a step back. I erased things that were too personal to make it a real fictional story, which tends more towards universality, I believe. »

If the role of the father was written specifically for Roschdy Zem, an actor whom the filmmaker knows well for having directed him in the television series Les Sauvages, that of the woman in love was not automatically assigned to Virginie Efira, even if the two women had been hovering around for quite a while.

“When I wrote the screenplay, I still had Virginie’s voice and way of speaking in mind,” she says. This actress has a way of being moving without being a victim. To be feminine without being simpering. To be seductive without being coquettish. She is a cerebral observer, but spontaneous. And then, Virginie really embodies her age, in all her strength and her fragility. We said for a long time that we had something to live together. »

“As for Roschdy, she continues, I wanted to deconstruct a little the very archetypal image of virility that he can give off. He was rarely given romantic roles. Here, he is neither cop, nor thug, nor villain, just in love. It also amused us to reverse the relationship to nudity. The scene where Virginie is naked is comical while the one where Roschdy is naked is graceful. Traditionally, we tend to see the opposite. »

“Usually the very first feature film turns out to be the most intimate because a filmmaker will tend to put a lot of himself into it. In my case, it was very modest, very masked. Other People’s Children echoes Belleépine. It’s a bit as if I had closed a cycle with this young woman – Léa Seydoux is an extraordinary actress with whom I have not finished – whom I find later in the guise of Virginie. These two characters do not have the same first name, but they have the same surname. I have the feeling that my subconscious has worked underground over the years to make these films very personal explorations. »