I watched this film when I was 16 in my French class. I remember at the time thinking it was a pretty good film, fairly realistic, and one that my 16-year-old self could easily identify with.
I would say the theme of the movie is Dworkin’s quote: ‘every woman is one man away from welfare’ (or something along those lines). She was referring to husbands, bosses, fathers. You could extend the quote: every woman is one man away from homelessness, prostitution and death.
Anyway, little did I realise at the time that it was a MIRACLE the movie existed at all. I thought, of course, that there would be more of such films. But there weren’t. Oh, there were plenty of romanticized images of hardship and suffering (women’s suffering being sexy, of course), but nothing that comes as close to examining the inner lives of women as The Dream Life of Angels.
It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. Another main theme is female friendship, and this is what makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest. [The Bechdel test is a feminist benchmark for movies.
Only a few movies pass. Go ahead, try to think of some. It’s extremely difficult. Most movies manage to get to #2 but don’t ever make it to #3]
Here is the scene when the young Marie discovers the man she thought was her boyfriend had just been using her for sex, and the subsequent fight in the appartment with her best friend, who tries to physically stop her from going back to him: