Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Alice Taglioni, Laure Calamy, Samir Guesmi, Olivier Babourdin
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…a poignant study of mortality and memory, elevated by its ‘back and forth’ narrative and strong intertextual performances.
The Grande dame of French Cinema, Catherine Deneuve stars opposite her real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni in Claire Darling, based on Lynda Rutledge’s novel Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale.
Set over the course of a summer’s day in Verderonne, Deneuve plays the eponymous recluse who decides to empty her mansion of its precious belongings and sell them in an impromptu garage sale. Her reemergence catches the attention of the town’s residents, and also her estranged daughter, Marie (Mastroianni), who she has not seen for 20 years.
Filmed predominantly on her Grandmother’s actual estate, director Julie Bertuccelli’s (The Tree, Since Otar Left) film looks at the effects of age on the mind, alongside the intrinsic relationship between mother and daughter.
She builds the severity of Claire’s dementia and unreliable mind through fantastical scenes and visual intermittences, such as having the camera follow a group of ethereal children dressed in white through the house and garden.
Bertuccelli creatively switches between different timelines, during which the present-day character will appear to reminisce and observe their younger counterpart.
It is through these frequent Dickensian flashbacks that we come to predominantly follow the flamboyant middle-aged Claire (played by Alice Taglioni), and learn more of the Darling family’s tragic history. We also gain insights into her penchant for collecting antiques, with a family ring proving to be the catalyst that drove away her daughter. For the modern-day Claire, these trinkets and objets d’art are echoes of her (fading) memories, and also double as inanimate substitutes for her loved ones.
Although still smoking cigarettes in her signature style, Deneuve is convincing as the complex and senile heiress, often caught drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Considering their troubled relationship in real-life, her scenes with Mastroianni are fascinating to watch; with reality potentially converging with fiction.
Bertuccelli’s adapted script also presents intriguing plot points and motifs, but they are ultimately never fully explored, including a recurring “magical” elephant clock. There is also an arc involving a local priest, who despite his minor screen-time gets a flashback scene of his own.
With a (foreshadowed) climax that may leave its audience dissatisfied, Claire Darling remains a poignant study of mortality and memory, elevated by its ‘back and forth’ narrative and strong intertextual performances.