Demain et Tous les Autres Jours (Tomorrow and Thereafter)
Noémie Lvovsky directs and stars in this discreetly fantastical, partly whimsical and sometimes unsentimental portrait of a mother whose fraught relationship with her daughter exposes her own psychological fragility. Luce Rodriguez is mesmerising as the conscientious nine-year-old daughter, Mathilde, while Lvovksky conveys the numbing fluctuations of the mother’s mental illness – the electric fug that overwhelms the brain, the emotional sterility, the stillness, the mania. Sometimes the portrayal feels less than convincing, too barmy perhaps, too controlled elsewhere. But cinematic depictions of depression, psychosis, all else, rarely feel wholly satisfactory, hard as it is to adequately match such an amorphous, senseless state of being. Lvovksy’s performance is not a bad one.
In an opening scene we are faced with a concerned head teacher, absurdly adorned with a neck brace. Mathilde has made few friends at school. The mother behaves oddly hearing the news, with well-meaning gestures punctuated by panicked commentary. Soon she has Mathilde up on the desk, telling her to gaze out through the window at a nest in a tree. Lvovsky presents the mother as all quirks and mannerisms, providing only a small indication of the consuming trauma to come. The daughter gradually seeks sanctuary in an apologetic gift from her mother, a pet owl that speaks only to her, offering what just about qualifies as coarse wit and sage advice. We should presumably see the owl as Mathilde’s childhood coping mechanism, rather than as a mirroring of the psychotic episodes endured by her mother. The remarkably expressive and foul-mouthed bird brings to mind a more benevolent, fewer-feathered version of the cat Behemoth in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Mathilde’s half-absent father (a pretty thankless role for Mathieu Amalric) offers a peculiar blend of impotence and helpfulness in an attempt to remedy the crisis. As the mother’s condition worsens, Mathilde’s precocious self-sufficiency and resolve are stretched, manipulated and affirmed.
The film rests on Rodriguez’s performance, which stuns in its complexity. The newcomer captures exceptionally the tension between frustration and sympathy, dutiful love and speechless despair, the feelings felt from daughter to mother. Their splintered yet unassailable bond is articulated through their sharing of strained, dissonant poetry and Mathilde’s Ophelia-like submersions in a mystical lake. There are added echoes of Hamlet’s tragic adolescent in an amusing skeleton burial scene. But the magical realist elements keep us from a Shakespearean tragedy, at least from one in which drowning is final. The end instead feels slightly contorted – the owl holds on as a motif – and we are left with a muddy compromise in which illnesses, relationships and hopes are awkwardly reconciled.
Demain et Tous les Autres Jours (Tomorrow and Thereafter) does not yet have a UK release date.