Irène, the vibrant center of Sandrine Kiberlain’s impressive debut feature, is indeed radiant. Beaming with youth, she’s an 18-year-old aspiring actor, awakened to first love and to the vision of who she wants to be. Irène is also Jewish, living with her family in occupied Paris, and the awful paradox of her blossoming during the summer of ’42 while a hateful and murderous world is closing in is suggested by the movie’s original title, Une Jeune Fille Qui Va Bien: She’s “a young girl who’s doing just fine.” Her zest for life sustains her, and it’s also a dangerous kind of tunnel vision. Played to awkward/graceful perfection by Rebecca Marder, in her first lead film role, Iréne is almost always in exuberant motion, well captured by Guillaume Schiffman’s nimble, unobtrusive cinematography. When the camera lingers for a moment on her anklets and oxfords, it’s a poignant reminder of how young and inexperienced she still is. And when, late in the film, Irène must begin wearing a yellow Star of David on her blazer, her gait is no less jaunty. Her refusal to be bowed recalls a line from The Journal of Hélène Berr, one of the sources writer-director Kiberlain cites: “I held my head high,” the Sorbonne student wrote of her first day wearing the Nazi-mandated star. But there’s an awareness, a sense of purpose in the attitude of Berr, who was a few years older than the fictional Irène; she “looked people so straight in the eye they turned away.” The hero of A Radiant Girl knows what’s going on in her city and yet, riding her own giddy trajectory, she feels invulnerable. Kiberlain, a prolific actor perhaps best known to international audiences for her memorable turns in Mademoiselle Chambon and Polisse, has assembled a superb cast to bring her concise and elegant screenplay to life, and she never loses focus on her characters and their interactions, both comic and charged with muted terror. The movie is at once a family drama, a coming-of-age romance and, not least, a valentine to theater kids. Irène’s love of acting is the drive to engage and play and create – to live. One of her more effusive classmates, Lena (Stéphanie Aflalo), baffles the other girls with her free-spirited gushing; she might be a future dance movement therapist. Gearing up for her conservatory audition, Irène is consumed with Marivaux’s L’Épreuve, and when Jo (Ben Attal), her devoted scene partner and friend, goes missing, she enlists classmate Viviane (India Hair) to take his place, inspiring some antic boy/girl vamping. When she isn’t rehearsing or working as an usher at a theater presenting Molière’s Don Juan, Irène directs her family in scenes in the living room, the most enthusiastic participant being Marceline, her grandmother, confidant and adviser (Françoise Widhoff, a producer and editor exuding mischief and wisdom in a rare onscreen role). Swooping into the apartment high on Marivaux or Molière, Irène is oblivious to the anxiety that’s quietly gripping the adults. Her father, André (an understated and deeply affecting André Marcon), is a chain-smoking accountant who’s apparently widowed – Kiberlain doesn’t stoop to explication posing as dialogue – and he’s weighing the urgency of a new decree requiring Jewish citizens to have their IDs stamped with a big red “Juif.” Noting that a Polish Jewish neighbor has been arrested, he tells his daughter, with naïveté or optimism, perhaps the same thing, that their being French will protect them.