I'm a boy now, but one day I'll be a girl." That's how 7-year-old Ludovic (Georges Du Fresne) explains his fondness for sugar and spice and everything nice in Alain Berliner's sugary, spicy Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink). Convinced he's a little girl trapped in a little boy's body, Ludovic may be going through a phase. Then again, maybe his whole life's a phase he's going through -- what transsexuals call pre-op. Whatever it is, Ludovic accepts his lot with an almost preternatural serenity. And so, when his parents throw a party for their new neighbors upon moving the family into a comfortable Brussels suburb, the doe-eyed child suddenly appears, in red high heels and a frilly pink dress, fully expecting to be complimented on how pretty he looks. Instead of compliments, the neighbors throw him a quick glance that says, "You go, girl...and don't come back." Then they laugh it off...this time. But Ludovic doesn't grow out of his belief that he's a girl. If anything, he grows more and more into it, even devising the theory that when God sent to earth the chromosomes that would determine whether Ludovic was a boy or a girl, one of the X-chromosomes bounced off the chimney and landed in the trash bin. (We see this happen in one of the movie's many liftoffs into fantasy.) Ludovic pays a price for his belief: He's laughed at, yelled at, beaten up, shunned and sent to a psychologist. His family pays a price, too: His parents nearly break up, his father loses his job, and they all have to move out of their now uncomfortable suburb. And yet the movie itself is bathed in the innocence of childhood, when reality and fantasy dance around each other like cherubs. When Ludovic fantasizes, which he does often, the screen pops open like a children's storybook, with candy-colored flowers and a flying princess who's prepared to grant his every wish. But even when Ludovic's not fantasizing, Berliner and his production team favor the vivid pinks and reds of Valentine's Day. The suburb that Ludovic's family moves to is terribly bright, terribly sunny, terribly everything, and Ma Vie en Rose is, first and foremost, a sweet-tempered satire about suburbanites' cheery need to conform. It's not that Ludovic's a boy who thinks he's a girl, it's that he's...different. And the androgynous Du Fresne, who has a face at once transparent and opaque, gives Ludovic an otherworldly charm that helps him ward off the sticks and stones this world keeps hurling at him.
Some might argue that Ludovic's a severely disturbed child who's undergone a near-psychotic break with reality, and the movie plays into that argument by allowing Ludovic to retreat into fantasy whenever things get too tough. Of course, where else can he go? And what child doesn't fantasize? A gender-bender for those who haven't even begun to think about sex, Ma Vie en Rose itself is like a child's fantasy. It imagines a world where, eventually, a little boy doesn't get a dressing down for dressing up...in a dress. You go, girl.