FOUR STARS A screenwriter comes to stay with her mother, an ageing screen goddess. Tension runs high.
Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche
COMEDY DRAMA FRENCH LANGUAGE #THETRUTH
Two titans of French cinema come together in this witty and waspy meditation on family relationships and maintaining a top-line billing. Lumir (Juliette Binoche) is a screen writer and daughter of screen legend Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve). She’s arrived in Paris with her American TV-actor husband (Ethan Hawke) intending to spend a little time with mother. Instead she’s drawn deeply into conflict when she finally gets to read Fabienne’s memoir and the fabrications within ("I'm an actress, I won't tell the unvarnished truth!”), then deeper again when she’s forced to become her mother’s runner on the set of her latest film.
It’s a sci-fi drama aptly titled Memories Of My Mother in which a woman flees into space to avoid growing old on earth. Fabienne plays her aged daughter opposite an up and coming starlet, another point of conflict given the narcissistic Fabienne has never been especially fond of competition, young or old. It’s in scenes like these, and there are many, that THE TRUTH soars as Deneuve sets her tongue free with a sly, self-satirising wink at the camera.
For Fabienne has never been much of a wife or mother, not while there’s been a career to tend. In the opening scene she haughtily tolerates a nervous journalist while dismissing the talents of her peers. She opens a conversation about great alliterative actresses - Simone Signoret, Anouk Aimee - but turns her nose up at Brigitte Bardot. Her son-in-law is in the firing line: “Actor is saying quite a lot” she dryly opines, a little because he is American, a lot because he works in television. She is utterly impossible, and Deneuve is utterly priceless.
Despite the title, THE TRUTH steers away from an anticipated big reveal, preferring an amalgamation of small scenes, encounters, eye rolls and barbed conversations that drive mother and daughter closer to an understanding. It may not be as exquisitely defined as the work for which Japanese director Koree-eda has become acclaimed, films like SHOPLIFTERS which are a more deeply layered, piercing experience. None the less, THE TRUTH remains a tasty treat not only for the pairing of Binoche and Deneuve and the wicked self-deprecation that comes with it, but also the way in which they tease a new understanding from fires of the past.