Year:  2022

Director:  Mia Hansen-Love

Rated:  MA

Release:  June 8, 2023

Distributor: Palace

Running time: 113 minutes

Worth: $15.00
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Lea Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Nicole Garcia, Camille Leban Martins, Sarah Le Picard

… slice of life approach allows for more artistic truth than something more elaborately constructed.

For such an intellectual filmmaker, Mia Hansen-Love (Bergman Island, Things to Come) makes very domestic films. Well, of course, that is starting from the very biased (possibly ‘male’) position that the domestic sphere is not really the realm of ideas. Nevertheless, in this new one, the focus is very determinedly on how the female lead character Sandra (Lea Seydoux) can hold her emotional/family life together in the face of many challenges. It is also, in a parallel way, about how women do most of the caring and emotional labour in heterosexual relationships and families.

Lea Seydoux is one of the most prominent French actresses today. In addition, she has branched into non-French language films, such as the Bond franchise. Back in this French art movie context, she plays in a different register.

Sandra is clearly an independent woman (we see early on, a brief glimpse of her high level skills working as a translator), but she is also not exactly in charge of her life in other ways. The fact that her beloved father (played by stalwart Pascal Greggory) is fading fast and now requires respite care is dragging her down, if not throwing her into a spin. When she meets handsome old friend Clement (Melvil Poupaud) and more or less immediately falls into an affair, we sense that it may cause more problems than it solves.

Seydoux gives a solid perf throughout and shows remarkable technique, for example when she needs to go from happy to crumbling into tearfulness without missing a beat. Accumulatively, she does get us to care about Sandra. The romance between her character and Clement is also interestingly handled. There are quite a few intimate scenes, but these are definitely love scenes rather than sex scenes. Seydoux has previously shown that she is unabashed about such aspects, and it adds to the realism.

As with Hansen-Love’s critically praised Father of My Children, the structure seems loose if not rambling. There are few set pieces and the fact that so many scenes are so brief or truncated makes it feels sometimes ‘bitty’.  Maybe, life is like that mostly. Maybe too, this slice of life approach allows for more artistic truth than something more elaborately constructed.