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Actors: Kristin Scott Thomas, Yvan Attal, Sergi Lopez
Directors: Catherine Corsini
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
DVD Release Date: 29 Nov 2010
Run Time: 85 minutes
This French drama tells the story of Suzanne, a housewife and mother who, like many women, finds herself floundering as her children grow into adults and her role in the family takes on a less full time commitment. She decides to fill this emptiness by returning to work as a physiotherapist with the intention of working from home. This requires renovations to outbuildings on the land close to her house and the work is contracted out to a firm of builders. Suzanne's husband, an eminent doctor, is not happy with the quotes he receives for the work, and the builder agrees to scale down the operation hiring temporary help to cut costs. It is through this avenue that Suzanne meets Ivan - an odd job man with a prison history. It is no ordinary meeting as there is a mutual attraction between them, and as passion ignites what follows presents a horrendous dilemma in which Suzanne must consider her life and her future. To understand the twists and turns of events requires a lot of empathy, and I can highly recommend this steamy French drama which uncovers so much about human nature and emotional turmoil.
This is a recent film made in 2009 and available from Amazon for £9.99. They also have other copies sold on the marketplace more cheaply which are both new and second hand.
The film is in French with English subtitles- but if you don't speak French don't worry the subtitles are secondary. The drama is more than enough to be self explanatory so the French dialogue adds to the atmosphere, and a quick glance at the text is all that is required.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays the leading role in this film alongside Yvan Attal who plays her husband Samuel, and the part of Ivan is played by Sergi Lopez. Samuel acts well but Kristin excels as each scene unfolds she portrays her part so credibly. This is not a film to watch with the family - it is a fiery, passionate affair which develops when a chance encounter creates a possibility. Set in Languedoc and Roussillon amongst stunning French scenery, there is no doubt that the landscape and the beauty paints the backdrop perfectly.
The film is really about what happens to a woman who loses her identity as an individual. She has been taken care of financially for two decades in exchange for cooking chickens and doing laundry. This has gone on for too long and her life is devoid of youthful excitement. You can see the drudgery rooted in the eyes of Suzanne which gleam and sparkle when she thinks of Ivan. What she portrays so well throughout the film is the compulsion and addictive nature that is driving her actions. These excited feelings override common sense and practicalities, and leave a trail of devastation behind her.
The pace is steady and as events evolve stunning acting shines from the husband who plays the deceived so well with such anger, bitterness and rage. He is totally believable in his actions, and I think the film works purely on its ability to present the facts exactly as they are in all their disturbing and destructive rawness. It is the tale of the three, husband, lover and wife. There are good performances too by the teenagers who play minor roles - not too much emphasis is put on their loss and life altering changes as mum abandons the kitchen sink for pastures new.
I think what really struck me about the film was the lover Ivan, who to me was just not that special either as an actor or as the character. Why she would want to be with him really intrigued me, because despite having nothing to offer in the way of finances he wasn't anything special either. For me this was the slight let down of the film in that he was a less than credible figure, and it does take a lot of imagination to understand why she would have fallen for him. Usually there would have been something else - maybe it's my taste in men that is at fault here! That being said though for me it diluted the reality of the film slightly, as to fall for someone they need character and or looks, and I struggled to find it in Ivan! He lacked sparkle - I don't think it was necessarily poor acting but rather a portrayal of a character that really was nothing that special. I think the film is trying to say this is what can happen to a woman who is immersed in domesticity for too long, trapped in the walls of responsibility and sees an escape route back to her youth sitting on a plate in front of her. The actions are instinctive and headstrong - never once does she look back to what lies behind her. It happened to be Ivan but it could have been anyone who came into her life at that precise moment.
The extras on this DVD for me were the icing on the cake. Interviews with Kristin and the director Catherine Corsini are both insightful. They both explore the core aspects of the film and what they were trying to portray. The emphasis is really on how a middle age women suddenly finds herself in this predicament and risks losing everything in the pursuit of passionate love and desire. I believe this film is a true representation of this and is expertly directed.
There is also a trailer on the DVD which was for the release of the film in UK cinemas.
I don't think this film will appeal to everyone- certainly a younger audience may not appreciate the subject matter. If you are a female between 40 and 65 then this may well entertain, and certainly women of this age may appreciate seeing a film where for once the woman leaves for a younger man. Certainly due to the intimate nature of some of the scenes I wouldn't recommend sitting round as a family to watch this either.
This film portrays the passion in life, raw, honest and powerful, and shows what it can do to a cosy settled lifestyle as it cuts through wealth and stability as quick as a guillotine cuts through paper. Would I watch it again - most definitely as it speaks loudly in my language. There is more to life than wealth and possessions, and that whilst life on orange boxes is tough, the love behind it will often challenge even the most rock steady relationships in affluence if they are stale and predictable.
This review is also posted on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.