Is life always this hard or is it just when you’re a kidLeon: The Professional 1994, written and directed by Luc Besson. Starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman.

After returning from dinner last night, slipping into PJ’s and hanging out in the bedroom,  my boyfriend asked me, ‘What film do you want to watch tonight?’ This is the habitual question that one of us asks the other each night we spend at home. The other always answers,  ‘I don’t know – do you fancy something old? Something funny or…?’ It can go on like this for a while, till eventually one of us loses interest. Last night my answer was, ‘I want to watch something that moves me.’ 

And, well, I most certainly was.

‘Allora, come stai Leone?’ ‘Bene’ The opening line said.

Yes! Last night I watched Leon:The Professional and yes, ashamedly, it was the first time I’d seen it. Leon, starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman was made in 1994, written and directed by Luc Besson. Those very first few lines hooked me instantly, but the second I saw a tiny Natalie Portman, sitting in a hallway smoking a cigarette, I was completely enthralled.

There’s something I’ve always found truly bewitching about Natalie Portman – I love to watch her. But this performance completely and utterly astounded me. She was a mere thirteen when she made this film, but her acting is absolute perfection. She appears to have mastered her talent, yet she seems so natural and believable. In comparison to someone such as Dakota Fanning, who I can appreciate may have honed her talent and be a brilliant actress – but in my opinion, doesn’t seem to possess that naturalness that Portman does at this age.

In Leon: The Professional Natalie Portman plays Mathilda, a daring, loving and intense twelve year old girl, and Jean Reno plays Leon. When I asked my boyfriend what the film was about, he described it as a story of a professional hitman, but this does it no justice. Ultimately it’s a love story. Albeit, it’s hard to decipher what kind of love grows between Leon and Mathilda. Initially it appears to be a fatherly daughterly love, but their relationship evolves and at times I thought the film may have been gravitating towards something more sordid, like Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

However, regardless of the age difference between Leon and Mathilda, strangely their relationship never seems quite as tawdry as Humbert and Dolores. In fact, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments in the film where I found myself wanting Leon to admit his love for Mathilda and, admittedly, for their love to manifest. Whereas in Lolita, I detested Humbert and the entire ordeal – as you’re supposed to.

The beauty of Leon is that you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to feel. Throughout the film I longed for Leon to address their age difference, for him to tell Mathilda that they couldn’t love each other because it was wrong. Even when Mathilda has decided that she’s ready to make love to him, his only reason for not doing so is because he won’t make a good lover. This would have been the expected juncture in the film for Leon to express any form of concern he may have had about their age – but he doesn’t. 

I’m not quite sure if Leon ever officially confirms what kind of love he has developed for Mathilda. But this is what makes the film so beautiful and powerful. We all know that Leon loves Mathilda in the same way she is ‘in love’ with him, but we just want to hear it – so we can understand and decide how we, as the audience, should feel about the situation (‘should’ being the operative word). The fact that Luc Besson never gives us that satisfaction is sheer genius. Even as I write about the film this very minute, my unanswered questions still linger and I am still very much haunted by the fact that I wanted Leon and Mathilda to fall in love and ultimately – I shouldn’t have.

All the wonderful and beautiful moments from Leon

There are so many wonderful and tender moments in this film – and a lot of them take place with very little dialogue at all. It’s definitely the small details, such as the way Mathilda takes on the habbit of pouring Leon’s glass of milk for him or the way she tucks him into bed –  the only night they share a bed, that makes this film an absolute masterpiece. I’m tempted to say it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

The Trailer

“Please open the door…” Mathilda

Mathilda: I was more of a mother to him than that goddam pig ever was.

Leon: Hey don’t talk  like that about pigs. They’re usually much nicer than people.

Mathilda: They smell like shit.

“If you don’t help me I’ll die tonight. I can feel it.I don’t wanna die tonight.” Mathilda

“Let’s play a game.” Mathilda

” Leon, I think I’m kinda falling in love with you…” Mathilda

“I want love or death – that’s it…” Mathilda

“A girl’s first time is very important…it determines the rest of our lives actually…” Mathilda

 12 minutes in: “I’m sick of watching you sleep in your chair. We’re gonna share the bed.” Mathilda

You can’t love a film till you’ve seen Leon.

Leon: The Professional 1994


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