My Zoe review: Julie Delpy helms tale of a mother’s ‘ethically troublesome quest’ for her daughter

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How far would you go to save your child? Director-writer-star Julie Delpy asks this pivotal question in her new slightly dystopian drama My Zoe.

Scientist Isabelle (Delpy) is living her life as a working mother amidst her divorce from her controlling ex James(Richard Armitage), trying her best to provide and be there for her beloved daughter Zoe (Sophie Ally).

As she and James battle for access to Zoe, their worlds are turned upside down when a tragic incident leaves them contemplating what they love most.

After being faced with a living nightmare, Isabelle sets off across the globe to track down a doctor named Thomas (Daniel Bruhl) who she believes can save her daughter in a rather revolutionary way.

However, will Thomas decide to help her as he faces resistance from his wife Laura (Gemma Arterton)?

And even if he does, will Isabelle be able to stop her nightmare from happening?

Isabelle (Julie Delpy, right) shares custody of her daughter Zoe (Sophie Ally) with her bitter ex-husband
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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My Zoe is certainly one curious beast. Delpy begins proceedings with an affecting family drama that focuses on the heartrending difficulties of a custody battle and the spats between Delpy's confident Isabelle and Armitage's suitably spiteful James.

Around half-way through the drama is when the film's genre shifts somewhat as we see a medical drama descend into light science-fiction as Isabelle embarks on her ethically-troublesome quest to be with her daughter.

Here is when the film falls down the most, as proceedings feel somewhat half-baked. Bruhl is introduced as a scientist who is faced with a moral quandary but this friction within his mind and in his relationship with his illustrator wife (a sparingly used Arterton) is rather spare and never mined for enough depth or tension.

Daniel Bruhl stars as Dr. Thomas Fischer who could help Isabelle achieve her goal
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

Gemma Arterton stars as Thomas' concerned wife Laura
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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In fact, the biggest flaw with My Zoe is the lack of conflict in the film's second-half as it tackles its most thought-provoking content but in a somewhat breezy manner.

Yet, it is hard to not be charmed by Delpy and some of her cast. It is well-filmed and well-acted, particularly in the work from an exasperated and upset Delpy in the film's first half and from a late, small appearance from the ever-excellent Lindsay Duncan in a perfectly cast turn as Delpy's on-screen mother.

Most of all, it is Delpy's ambition as a writer and director that makes My Zoe a fascinating watch even when it falls down on a number of occasions.

Laura strikes up a friendship with troubled Isabelle
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

Will Isabelle get her heart's desire to preserve her life with Zoe?
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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The glimmers of humour here also hearken back to the wit evident in Delpy's immensely watchable previous films such as 2 Days in Paris and its sequel 2 Days in New York.

Hopefully we see her full return to this genre soon.

Verdict

My Zoe is an ambitious family drama that goes to some unlikely and undercooked places, but it is hard to not admire the work from triple-threat Julie Delpy.

My Zoe is released on digital on October 5, 2020.

What is your favourite Julie Delpy film? Let us know in the comments below.

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