I am now wavering back and forth between loving iconic French screen actress Catherine Deneuve and disliking her. From her great acting we moved into her unelightened views on the #MeToo movement to most recently when she suffered a stroke…bottom line is though the last two have noting really to do with her acting and body of work. If I were to just focus on that then I would firmly be in the “love her” category.
France has given the film world plenty of fantastic actresses from Jeanne Moreau to Marion Cottillard to Juliette Binoche to Isabelle Huppert to Charlotte Rampling and the list could go on and on. At or near the top of everyone’s list is the great Catherine…Deneuve. She has had quite a career working with directors such at Francois Truffaut, Lars von Trier, Tony Scott, and Agnes Varda. She has an Oscar and BAFTA nomination as well as amazing 14 nominations for a Cesar (French equivalent to the Oscars) along with two wins. Even now at the age of 76 the film world sits up and takes notice when she does a film.
For good reason as she commands your attention. Even in this role in which her trademark blonde mane is dark and her character, the co-owner of a horse ranch, is less than glamourous. Deneuve just oozes that “it” quality.
Co-owner of a horse ranch and orchard, Muriel (Catherine Deneuve – Indochine, Dancer in the Dark) is excited that her grandson Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein – Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, Being 17) is coming for a visit. It is to be his last visit before he leaves for Canada so Muriel wants as much time with him as she can get.
That doesn’t really work out as Alex either spends time with his girlfriend Lila (Oulaya Amamra – Divines) or is quite distracted. He even tells her he has converted to Muslim. Worried about his behaviour, she goes through the stuff in his room to find he is not going to Canada, but to Syria to fight for ISIS. He has been radicalized and Alex is not only lying but stealing money from her as well. How will Muriel deal with this?
Matching her director’s veteran knowhow is Deneuve. She pulls off all that is asked from her, which is plenty as she transforms from a vibrant, independant women to a hesitant and rather naive one by the end.
This is not an easy subject, but co-screenwriter and director André Téchiné demonstrates his sensitivity and veteran savvy. He keeps things as vague as possible in order to keep the tension amped up as well as non-judgmental. He also knows how to tell a story visually with his characters and landscape filling up the screen in a beautiful yet not overwhelming way. Though it was far from a perfect film.
In the beginning I thought it was a solid character study with an examination of Islam and radicalization along with the viewpoint of a different generation along with someone who identifies as non-religious. Then it transformed quickly into a family drama. My interest began to fade at this point as it devolved into stereotypes and the usuals from this type of film. From complexity we veer towards overused cliches.
Terrorism and the world we live in are so complex that they deserve better than this. Tired viewpoints and cliche after cliche. The film did the subject a disservice by glossing over many of the prickly points. As hard as that might be to accomplish…