The gulf between what you might assume it's like to be young and beautiful, broke and free, and the actual reality of that gets marvelously exposed in the first two shots of Valérie Massadian's patient, intimate Milla. First, we see teen lovers entwined in a haze, stirring from sleep in the woods, the languor suggestive of Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. Massadian cuts to a new angle: Actually, they're crammed into the back of a heap of a car with windows that have fogged over from their breathing.
For the next two hours, as it spools out its story, Milla honors both of those moods and modes. Most of Massadian's shots are full single-take, static-camera scenes. Amid the post-industrial beauty and waste of coastal northern France, these teen lovers -- Milla (Severine Jonckeere) and Leo (Luc Chessel) -- move into a bare house, scrounge for food, make an exhilarating game out of stealing local produce. Their love thrives in the ruins, but there's always something that matters that these characters just can't quite seize.
Massadian is adept at portraying economic hardship without patronization. The duo will take jobs (fishing boat, hotel maid) and face the kind of life changes that are inevitable for teens, unsupervised, who are free to do what comes naturally. But the film is named Milla for a reason. Leo is not around for the back half, which finds Milla now bonded with another young male, more deeply than ever: Milla and Leo's new son. Milla's love for him makes her love for Leo look juvenile by comparison. Jonckeere is a superb laugher and responder, her sleepy eyes and gently puckered mouth as entrancing as Massadian's compositions.