The Truth

 

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Koreeda Hirokazu temporarily forsakes Japan to give us a French piece about a mother and daughter.

 
Truth, The

Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche

 

On paper it sounds great: two outstanding French actresses, Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, co-starring for the first time, with Ethan Hawke in support and under the direction of the most acclaimed of Japan’s living directors Koreeda Hirokazu. Although The Truth finds Koreeda filming outside of Japan for once, it is a work that he wrote himself and, indeed, he is also the editor so, while it can be hazardous for a famous filmmaker to set up a film in another country and in a language not his own (in this case mainly in French but with some English too), on this occasion the prospects were good. But in the event the result however watchable is sadly unmemorable.

 

The players are nowhere at fault here and The Truth its attractively photographed in colour and ’Scope by Éric Gautier. The material, however, proves to be only superficially appealing. Deneuve plays Fabienne Dangeville, a movie star of great standing who has just published a memoir. We see her first acting like a diva when giving an interview and this sets a tone that suggests that the film will be a pleasant if hardly original comedy. She is soon joined by her daughter Lumir (Binoche) flying in from New York with her husband, an undistinguished actor (Hawke) and their young daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier). Almost at once previously existing tensions between mother and daughter come to the surface once more with Lumir angry at lies contained in Fabienne’s memoir and over the book’s failure to be honest about an actress named Sarah Mondavan, now dead, who had been a rival to Fabienne.

 

Given that the central focus here is on the relationship between Fabienne and Lumir, it is something of a heavy-handed contrivance that Fabienne’s current film role should be in a sci-fi film entitled Memories of My Mother which, when witnessed on the set during shooting, turns out to concern a problematic and often absent mother and thereby parallels to some extent the film that we are watching. By now there is a sense of impending drama rather than comedy. It’s not just that the emphasis on the impact of a mother who is an artist on her daughter echoes Ingmar Bergman’s late masterpiece Autumn Sonata but that what is said about the late Sarah Mondavan in itself suggests a definite shift into darker areas. Yet in the event what happened to Sarah is not really developed, just as the fact that Lumir’s husband has had a drinking problem goes nowhere (the role of the husband feels like a sad waste of the talented Ethan Hawke). Similarly, themes about memory and to what extent it is its reliable although touched on never amount to anything much.

 

The failure of The Truth to make its various elements cohere into something with a clear purpose renders it a work which involves one with its characters only on the surface even if one can certainly enjoy Deneuve and Binoche for their own sakes. When late on (and not all that convincingly) a certain warmth enters the story both actresses embrace the opportunity to engage us more directly. Even so, The Truth never takes on any real worth in its own right although its star power should make it a commercial success and that one does not begrudge it.

 

Original title: La Vérité.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, Clémentine Grenier, Manon Clavel, Alain Libolt, Christian Crahay, Roger ven Hool, Ludovine Sagnier, Laurent Capelluto, Jackie Berroyer.

 

Dir Koreeda Hirokazu, Pro Muriel Merlin, Screenplay Koreeda Hirokazu, Ph Éric Gautier, Art Dir Riton Dupire-Clément, Ed Koreeda Hirokazu, Music Alexeï Aïgui, Costumes Pascaline Chavanne.

 

3B Productions/Bunbuku/M.I Movies/France 3 Cinéma/Canal+/Ciné+-Curzon.
107 mins. France/Japan. 2019. Rel: 20 March 2020. Cert. PG.

Available on Curzon Home Cinema.