In Her Hands

 

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A movie made not for critics but for an audience seeking upbeat escapism.

 
In Her Hands

Jules Benchetrit and Lambert Wilson

 

A film like this makes life difficult for a critic. That's because it is self-evident that the story which it tells could yield a really good piece of cinema, a serious drama bearing social weight, whereas the approach adopted is the opposite of that: this is an improbable feel-good work for those who find escapism in a tale that chooses to bypass realism for an emotional wallow. In Her Hands, a French movie from Ludovic Bernard, is at least consistent in following its chosen path and one can say with some confidence that those who are attracted by this kind of work will enjoy it.

 

In Her Hands is the story of a young man named Mathieu Malinski (Jules Benchetrit) who lives in a tough Paris banlieue and has already been drawn into a life of petty crime. It leads to his arrest for breaking and entering and that finds him carrying out community service by way of acting as a cleaner at the Paris Conservatoire. However, what makes him stand out from others growing up in this milieu is an instinctive talent for music. One of the directors at the Conservatoire, Pierre Geithner (Lambert Wilson), takes him under his wing and is soon building him up to be their entrant in an international piano competition. To this end despite some initial reluctance on his part Mathieu accepts as his teacher one Elizabeth Buckingham who is known as The Countess (Kristin Scott Thomas).

 

The way in which a special talent can with luck transform the prospects of somebody from a poor background could readily be made the basis of an engrossing and fully believable drama. However, Ludovic Bernard and Johanne Bernard, the writers here, go all out to build everything up into an emotional roller-coaster. To show mentor and teacher gradually gaining Mathieu's confidence is not enough: promoting Mathieu in this way has to put Pierre's job on the line, his wife (Elsa Lepoivre) has to reveal a family tragedy in terms that make Mathieu have second thoughts about competing, tendinitis has to threaten his ability to perform but is then conveniently forgotten and a last minute change of heart brought about as a response to an accident affecting his family sees Mathieu running through the streets and arriving only just in time to compete after all. That the piece he plays is the first movement of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto means that he apparently has to perform it without any previous rehearsal with the orchestra!

 

That realism is not the mode is further evidenced by the way in which a sub-plot that finds Mathieu falling in love with a student of the cello, Anna (Karidja Touré), is accompanied by a soundtrack made up of popular romantic songs. But, if you give yourself to the film, you will find that there are a number of things going for it even if Jules Benchetrit is decidedly unremarkable in the central role. In contrast to him, Touré's rather unrewarding part nevertheless confirms the spark that she displayed so memorably in Girlhood (2014) while Wilson is always a steady presence. More fruitfully still, Scott Thomas does really well in the circumstances, her portrayal of the teacher being so much better realised than her role in the recent Military Wives, a film of similar character to this one. It can also be said that Bernard's direction keeps things on the move so that In Her Hands is good of its kind - but whether or not its kind is your kind you probably know from my description of what is on offer here.

 

Original title: Au bout des doigts.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Lambert Wilson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jules Benchetrit, Karidja Touré, Elsa Lepoivre, André Mascon, Michel Jonasz, Xavier Guelfi, Vanessa David, Gaspard Meier-Chausand, Milo Mazé.

 

Dir Ludovic Bernard, Pro Eric Juhérian and Mathias Rubin, Screenplay Johanne Bernard and Ludovic Bernard, Ph Thomas Hardmeier, Pro Des Philippe Chiffre, Ed Roman Rioult, Music Harry Allouche, Costumes Marylin Fitoussi.

 

Récifilms/TF1 Studio/France 2 Cinéma/Nexus Factory/Umedia/Everest Films/Canal+/Ciné+-Parkland Entertainment.
105 mins. France/Belgium. 2018. Rel: 10 July 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 15.