If there’s one person who made the most out of quarantine, it’s Nicola Rose. As the world shut down, Nicola powered up. Reaching out to her friend, producer Tierney Boorboor, Nicola declared it time to go big while staying home. Tapping into tools like Zoom and sheer tenacity, Goodbye, Petrushka made it to the screen.
Goodbye, Petrushka is a coming-of-age film told with the same gentle innocence as its plot.
Goodbye, Petrushka is a coming-of-age film told with the same gentle innocence as its plot. Nineteen-year-old Claire (Lizzy Kehoe), learning just how misunderstood a young artist can be, jumps at the dream of uprooting her life to move to Paris. Her impulsive decision leads Claire to a series of terrible jobs, an uncomfortable relationship, and an infatuation with a fellow artist who is just as lost as she is.
When we first meet Claire. she’s drudging through film class in Manhattan receiving ‘constructive’ criticism on morality and realism from Professor Steve (Dhane Ross). Professor Steve communicates his disdain for Claire and her main character – a tapeworm – in theatrical third person without taking any notice of her scowls. When Claire pursues an ill-received passion project involving puppets with Oedipal complexes, she finally reaches her breaking point.
Claire communes with her bestie Julia (Casey Landman) and the pair embark on their Parisian adventure, but not before Claire has a chance encounter with a French figure skater named Thibaut (Thomas Vieljeux). Once in Paris, Claire spends her days suffering the overbearing French-ness of the family she’s au pairing for, while committing her free time to YouTube spirals of Thibaut’s figure skating. After talking her way into a school of puppetry, Claire concocts a project combining figure skating and puppetry for the two of them to collaborate on together.
Ultimately, though, Claire finds herself parting ways with both Thibaut and with Paris, having learned hard lessons about herself, her art, and those she put her faith and hopes in.
Filmmaker Nicola Rose is happy to confess that Goodbye, Petrushka is largely autobiographical…
Nicola is happy to confess that Goodbye, Petrushka is largely autobiographical, a fact that is clear in her loving presentation. Nicola tells Claire’s story without melodrama, and with real heart. Nicola manages to imbue her film with the wonder and optimism of a young adult who believes the world is within her reach.
Lizzy Kehoe’s performance as Claire is honest and nuanced. She is natural and endearing, and suffers Claire’s misfortunes with youthful gusto. She speaks beautiful French, a skill Nicola required for casting and definitely succeeded in finding.
Playing Thibaut, Thomas Vieljeux is admittedly blessed with a natural European sultriness that makes Claire’s affection for him undeniably believable. Even so, he manages to portray Thibaut as vulnerable and artistically unsure. Although Thibaut causes Claire to wilt with disappointment, the actor keeps his character sympathetic and understandable.
A standout among the cast, Casey Landman is hilarious and bold as Julia (Claire’s bestie). Her one-liners land perfectly, and her affectations are hilarious even when Julia is severely out of touch with Claire’s problems. Casey’s portrayal manages to be characterized without being overblown.
Dhane Ross plays Professor Steve as a character anyone who has been in a screenwriting or filmmaking class will instantly recognize. Big-headed and pseudo-artistic, Professor Steve is lost in his own bravado at the expense of his students, but also to the amusement of the audience.
And then there’s Joëlle Haddad Champeyroux who is simply billed as “The Bureaucrat.” We first meet her at the school of puppetry… and then we meet her again… and again… and again. Wearing a rainbow of wigs, Joëlle is a charming recurring joke as her parade of characters continually blocks Claire’s hopes of success. It is an innovative use of a talented, multilingual actress who garners a giggle from the audience at every turn.
Visually, Goodbye, Petrushka is told in tight shots that build intimacy within the story while also showcasing the subtleties of Lizzy Kehoe’s acting. The color schemes are playful, with Claire often dressed in bright reds and pinks and yellows. Julia’s feathers and silks are a sharp contrast to Claire’s wools and knits, while Thibaut’s earthy palette speaks to both his sophistication and his dampened imagination.
It’s impossible to discuss Goodbye, Petrushka without mentioning the ghost that hovers over the production.
It’s impossible to discuss Goodbye, Petrushka without mentioning the ghost that hovers over the production. While it’s true that filmmaker Nicola Rose used the COVID quarantine to her advantage and worked around many difficulties, it is to the film’s detriment that timing misaligned and didn’t allow for filming on location in Paris. When asked, Nicola is quick to note that there was budgeting and planning to allow for a trip there to film, but with COVID such as it was, the health and safety of the crew would not allow for international travel.
Stock footage is provided to set the scene, but unfortunately New York City cannot fully be disguised enough to fool the eye. The tight shots work to the film’s advantage here, keeping details out of sight, but some locations such as the lush parks with their distinct rock walls or a restaurant with a faux brick wall or a large metal pole radiator in an apartment are undeniably New York. In a film which cast Paris in a featured role, the character is disappointingly absent.
Even so, Goodbye, Petrushka remains an enjoyable and touching watch. There is no villain. There is no grand heartbreak. It’s a soft spoken, uniquely told tale of a girl trying to find her way.
Claire yearns for artistic fulfillment, romantic love, friendship, independence.
Claire yearns for artistic fulfillment, romantic love, friendship, independence. These are things we can all identify a need for whether we’re a young student or not. At the screening I saw – at the Festival of Cinema NYC – Nicola described the positive feedback she’s been receiving. Goodbye, Petrushka certainly struck a chord with me.
Whether it be Claire’s journey to find herself, Thibaut’s artistic insecurity, or even Julia’s desperate need for germ-free romance, Goodbye, Petrushka is sure to tug at a string or two.
© Julie Musbach (8/24/22) – Special for FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
“A starry-eyed, awkward young woman moves impulsively from NYC to Paris, where she nannies for the family from hell, battles wacky French bureaucrats, embarrasses herself in front of her Parisian crush and navigates a toxic relationship — among other faux pas.” Click HERE to watch the Goodbye, Petrushka trailer on YouTube!
Read Nicola Rose’s FF2 Quarantale: “How I Masked-Up & Frenchified Harlem!”
Take a look at Nicola Rose’s filmography on IMDb.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Lizzie Kehoe and Thomas Vieljeux in a scene from Goodbye, Petrushka. (Director of Photography: Omar Torres)
Photo provided by Nicola Rose for use by FF2 Media. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Julie Musbach with a friend at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Australia.
A former entertainment journalist transitioning to a career in the art department of film & TV, Julie is currently working for HBO.
Originally from the Midwest, she lived in California, Massachusetts, DC, Australia, and Scotland, before settling — at least for now — in NYC.
Julie enjoys writing, travel, and cheese.