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Cécile de France
Catherine Deneuve stars as a family patriarch attempting to protect her grandson from a force she can't comprehend, himself. I had the privilege of seeing this film at the Berlin Film Festival on opening night, with the presence of director Andre Techine and Catherine Deneuve. So I am the first to admit that the experience somewhat blinded my judgment of this film. What starts out as a promising character study quickly deflates into a melodramatic family drama. Don't get me wrong, Techine directs the film with competent precision, filling up the screen with excellent cinematography. Many shots are simple but incredibly effective at bringing across their message. Deneuve too delivers an excellent performance, giving audiences a sense of seasoned experience by the start of the film. Towards the end her character falls more into a trap of naivety, where she tries everything to save her grandson. By no means is this particularly original but Deneuve pulls it off extremely well. In fact in my opinion her career of solid performances has really stepped up again ever since Lars von Trier's Dancer In The Dark. However her performance and Techine's direction can't help the cliches and tropes this film falls into. The grandson character is portrayed as this idealistic character, at first he is extremely compelling, I was able to understand where he came from yet opposed the direction he was heading into. He shares great scenes together with Deneuve that are definitely at the heart of this movie. However the film drops in quality towards the end of the second act, relying more on the typical platitudes and cliches of a family drama. The film loses its complexity, some may not see this as a problem but the film attempts to deal with a contemporary political topic (which I won't spoil as I was surprised by it). However this topic can not just serve as background works for a family drama. We live in a world that's plagued by terrorism both on the sides of jihadists and white supremacists. Donald Trump is President of the United States. The main topic of the film is such a complex issue that combines so many other problems within our own society. The film simply can't gloss over these problems and make a melodramatic family movie. However the cinematography and Catherine Deneuve's excellent performance certainly make this a watchable movie. But it could've been so much more than just watchable.
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