‘My Name Is Hmm…’: A Tender Friendship

NYFF film review
October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013

NEW YORK—In this remarkable and delicate film by Agnès Troublé (known generally as fashion designer agnès b.), Celine, an 11-year-old French girl (Lou-Lelia Demerliac, in a lovely performance), is routinely abused by her ne’er-do-well father (Jacques Bonnaffe) while her waitress mother (Sylvie Testud) works late. 

Desperate to run away from the painful situation, Celine’s route of escape presents itself when, during a school outing, she discovers an unlocked truck and climbs into its hidden sleeping area. What follows is a road trip with two apparently mismatched characters: the young girl, and the tattooed and leather jacketed truck driver (Douglas Gordon), who turns out to be a Scotsman with an almost nonexistent command of the French language.

Celine, initially fearful as to whether the driver might prove to be another dangerous male in her life, or a possible protector, is ultimately won over. As if to reassure her of his motives, he shows her a snapshot of his family, and merely states, “Dead.” At no time does he make any advances toward her, but rather, behaves like a caring family friend or relative.

As the two journey onward, although there is little conversation, a sensitive bond is formed. There are some light moments when Celine asks the driver to do some routine shopping for her. In a provincial shopping center the driver has some byplay with a slightly impatient store manager and a helpful customer, the latter pointing out some underclothes that would fit Celine. In an additional gesture, the driver buys Celine a charming sun dress, which delights her and softens her attitude toward him even further. 

In driving through a forest, they encounter a performance of two Japanese Butoh dancers (Aya and Dakei). This is never explained, but, then, why should it be. Its presence in the film enhances the sense of pervading unreality. After all, isn’t it only a matter of time before the runaway pair is discovered? The real world has already intruded by means of newspaper headlines, TV blurbs, and a dangerously close encounter with some police officers, who initially discover nothing amiss.

When they are finally discovered, the odd couple’s world is torn askew, with some positive, and some negative, results. For Celine, things will be better, as both her distraught parents vow to turn over another, more beneficial leaf, toward her future care. 

As for the driver, the denouement is astonishing and tragic. Suffice it to say, he proves himself a man of honor.

This unique film would appeal to those who appreciate subtlety and even a poetic outlook on harsh realities. It will be screened at the NYFF on Oct. 7 and 10. (Check for theater locations.)

Diana Barth writes about the arts for New Millennium, and other publications. For information, email diabarth@juno.com

My Name Is Hmm….(Je m’appelle Hmm…)

Director: Agnès B. (Agnès Troublé)
Starring: Sylvie Testud, Jacques Bonnaffé, Lou-Lélia Demerliac
Run Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Release Date: Oct. 7 (New York Film Festival)
Not rated

Reviewer gives this film 3.5 stars out of 5.