A subtle masterpiece
- The Truth review by PD
This piece, the first film by Hirokazu Kore-eda outside his native Japan, is a beautifully written drama in which a larger-than-life film-star diva — in this case, Catherine Deneuve — portrays a larger-than-life film-star diva. And Deneuve is utterly splendid as Fabienne Dangeville, a legendary French actress, now in her 70s, who approaches every moment with an 'I’m-still-here' tenacity which is at once steely and borderline tyrannical. Deneuve makes Fabienne a proudly narcissistic and theatrical glamour puss who has no patience for the idea that she should pretend to be anything other than the devious, self-adoring prima donna she is, although Fabienne is such a sly manipulator, so droll about her own royal ego, that we can’t help but feel drawn to her in a funny way. Kore-eda’s seamless dialogue is pitch-perfect throughout, suffused with the comedy of experience, and totally congruent with the cosmopolitan air of its French movie-world setting,
At the heart of the film is the relationship between Fabienne and her daughter Lumir, superbly played by Juliette Binoche, whose low-key but flawless performance is a perfect match for Kore-eda's sophisticated, subtle script. The heart of the film unfolds in Fabienne’s rustic suburban country home, where Lumir grew up, but as seemingly idyllic as the setting is, the memories are distinctly uncomfortable. Yet when confronted with the lies contained in her memoir, Fabienne offers no apology. It’s not in her nature to admit flaws; she maintains a tone of self-justifying blitheness. Fabienne speaks her mind to a fault, but after a while we realise that she’s never not acting. As the tensions mount, most films of this ilk would end build up towards an eruption of pain and confrontation, or (worse) to a soul-wrenching resolution involving copious tears and hugs. And many might feel the film that the film is weaker for not having these, but for the film is all the better for it - more believable, and ultimately more truthful.
There's some really effective touches, motifs and sub-plots, effortlessly woven into the action, notably the periodic detours to the set of the film Fabienne is shooting - inevitably, a mother-daughter drama, which offers a running commentary on the story we’re watching. Fabienne is actually cast as the daughter; that’s because the film’s sci-fi premise is that her sick mother went off into space (where you don’t age). So in many scenes, Fabienne plays a spiritual version of her own daughter: desperate, abandoned, reaching out to the mother she loves. It’s through this subplot that Kore-eda exhumes one of his oldest preoccupations: the permanence of film versus the impermanence of memory. Everything that happens between mother and daughter in the present is filtered through that past, and nothing in “The Truth” is more uncomfortably honest than the notion that families are cast much like films are cast; once people settle into their roles, it can become impossible to imagine them being played differently, or by anyone else. The beauty of Kore-eda’s film, despite its apparently light touch, is in the rhetorical way it wonders if it’s possible for people to separate themselves from those performances. A subtle masterpiece from a great director.
8 out of 10 members found this review helpful.
Light and love from a master filmmaker
- The Truth review by JB
A quiet but resonant movie from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose previous movie Shop-lifters won the Palme D'Or at Cannes.
Many other filmmakers would make a movie about a difficult family reunion full of screaming episodes and stony silences. But here, Parisian Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) and her visiting daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) don't have shouting matches, they almost shuffle around the house in a fog of resigned disappointment. Their drama is as much played out by proxy in the characters of the film Fabienne is shooting, as it is back home. And this is even with Fabienne publishing a memoir which drastically rewrites their family's history. Similarly low-key is Fabienne's attitude to her career: she has her moments of fire but otherwise is stoically resigned to a slow decay.
It's not a downbeat film; like the shots of the house's garden, there's bright beams of light everywhere. Ethan Hawke's husband and his relationship with his wife and daughter. The eventual exchanges Fabienne's book precipitate between her and her daughter. The simple beauty of everyday conversation between grandmother and granddaughter.
And it's a real pleasure to see these actors, particularly Binoche and Deneuve, so known for their emotionally charged performances, to really dial it back.
Perhaps The Truth is not essential Hirokazu Kore-eda; it's elegant, touching, very well written but not a revelation. However, it's an important film in his career being the first outside of Japan and one with such internationally well-known stars. He manages both changes with a characteristic ease, of course. And, inevitably, non-essential Kore-eda is still full of light and love.
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful.
A lovely film
- The Truth review by CM
With stunning performances from Catherine Deneuve, Julie Binoche and Ethan Hawke, this is a little gem of a film. A meditation on mothers and daughters, and the passing of the years and the waning of talent.
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful.