A Common Thread (aka Sequins) is a delicate and understated gem about artistry, friendship and love. It centres on Claire, a young cashier at the local supermarket, who uses her spare time to create intricate embroidery designs. When she falls pregnant, she takes a job as an assistant by Madame Melikian (Ariane Ascaride, The Snows of Kilimanjaro), a master embroiderer who sews delicate ornamentation for top fashion houses like Lacroix. As times passes, and her belly grows rounder, an almost wordless friendship forms between the two women.
A Common Thread – or 'Brodeuses' (The Embroiderers), its original title – is the impressive feature debut by young French writer/director Eleonore Faucher. She presents an intimate look at the life of a teenager in a small country town.
Lola Neymark plays seventeen year-old Claire Moutiers. She is beautiful, shy and works in the local supermarket as a 'check out chick' – a job she hates. Claire is also five and a half months pregnant and goes to great lengths to conceal her secret from the prying eyes of the town. Her other secret is a passion: to become an embroiderer for the fashion houses of Paris, but for Claire this is but a distant dream. Her salvation comes in the form of a 'brodeuse' and grieving mother, Madame Melikian, French acting veteran Ariane Ascaride (The Town Is Quiet). Having just lost her son in an accident, Madame Melikian offers to take Claire in. Working in silence at first, they begin to bond over life, loss, and some exquisite needle-play.
A Common Thread is a very quiet film yet you can't help but be overwhelmed by its detail, woven together by Faucher and her collaborators with such intimacy, intensity and artistry. From the sparse violin score by Michael Galasso, to Pierre Cottereau's rich, warm cinematography, A Common Thread is a powerful piece of work.
Neymark and Ascaride bring a wonderful symmetry to their on-screen relationship, as a young expectant mum mourning the loss of her future, and an older mother mourning the loss of her past. One can't help but be reminded of Australian writer/director Cate Shortland's Somersault (2004) when watching A Common Thread as there are many parallels between the two, only I found this closer to a more perfect film experience.
And there seems to be a common thread running through French cinema over the last five years or so, with stories about younger female characters front and centre in some of that nation's best and most rewarding films. A catalogue of such films is growing, with Eric Zonka's The Dreamlife Of Angels (1998), Cedric Kahn's L'Ennui (1998), the Dardenne brothers' Belgium co-production Rosetta (1999), Catherine Breillat's A Ma Soeur (2001) and this year's Look At Me firmly wedged in the index.
Let's hope more films as moving and luscious as A Common Thread keep up the good work of this compelling genre.