Rating4.0 / 5
Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke
December 26 2019
Hirokazu Koreeda’s maiden voyage into non-Japanese territory is elegant and comfortable. Maybe too comfortable.
All around her plush and luxurious Parisian apartment are souvenirs from her successful career as an actress. Her name is Fabienne Dangeville, played by Catherine Deneuve who could very well be playing herself. Fabienne has published her autobiography on the verge of playing a supporting character in an upcoming science-fiction film. To congratulate her, her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) and her family have arrived from New York. The Truth, Hirokazu Koreeda‘s first non-Japanese movie, is about Fabienne’s and Lumir’s relationship, and the way human personalities harden or soften over time but never change.
Fabienne is clearly a woman who knows what she wants and gets it, or else she wouldn’t be this famous. Her life is surrounded by servile men. Luc (Alain Libolt) is her long-time personal assistant, and Jacques (Christian Crahay) is her new paramour. She always has an opinion and is never ashamed to express it. It’s not that she doesn’t care; she has simply accepted that to be successful, bridges must be willingly burnt.
That’s where Lumir comes in. She picks up a copy of her mother’s book and is startled to discover the alterations of facts as Fabienne remembers them. There is no acknowledgement of Luc for his years of service, no recognition paid to Sarah, a close family friend whose acting career was derailed by Fabienne’s ravenous hunger for success. This, you can imagine, leads to a great many scenes where mother and daughter quarrel while their partners are ordered to mind their own business.
I was quite surprised to learn that The Truth was also written by Koreeda. The story, the setting, the characters could not be further removed from the work he usually makes, though his theme of family remains strong. What prompted him to venture beyond Japanese shores? Why now? And why France? It stands to reason that maybe Deneuve has been an actress he’s always admired and now that his movies have been recognised globally, it’s an honour to finally work with her.
It’s a delicate performance from Deneuve, which sits comfortably within the cosy walls of her surroundings. Binoche is charged with the more emotional part and has to wrangle feelings of anger and affection while maintaining an air of motherly strength. It’s a real treat to watch the two women in action, sparring with lines that are occasionally funny but always heartfelt.
My only wish is that Koreeda had swung for the fences, as he has countless times before. The Truth is safe, sometimes frustratingly so. It’s disappointing that the science-fiction movie within the movie happens to also be about a fragile relationship between a mother and a daughter, so that as Fabienne acts her scenes, she conveniently develops a deeper understanding of her own shortcomings. If The Truth had been made by a newcomer it’d be hailed as a sparkling debut. But because I know Koreeda has proven time and again that his films can shift into an extra gear, it’s a let-down that this time he cruises in fifth.
Images courtesy of Palace Films