A French drama directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, The Truth investigates how the dynamics of family relationships can be restored to a hard-earned peaceful neutrality, but only with the open communication and willingness from even the most stubborn and tightly closed books on the shelf. Actress Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) has a problematic relationship with her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), a difficulty that has been buried deep below the surface for some time, since her child has moved to America both for her career as a screenwriter and for her family. When Lumir and her husband (Ethan Hawke) return for a visit to Paris with their daughter, secrets are unearthed as Fabienne’s memoirs are published, leaving Lumir questioning her mother’s honesty about the reality of their lives.
In a film where family relations rely on the performances of its central cast, The Truth has no problem. Catherine Deneuve is a titan in this film as Fabienne, on fire in her portrayal of the wilting flower desperately clinging onto her acting career whilst hiding all the time from her past. She and Binoche are electric together, oozing chemistry and ramping up the tension like a never-ending crescendo until finally the bubble bursts. There has been a loss in the family, felt devastatingly, yet handled very differently by everyone, and both actresses manage their own character’s trials and tribulations excellently amongst the cluttered path of grief upon which they have decided to journey.
The film is certainly a character study, allowing its main cast the freedom to experiment and test their abilities to the limit. The dialogue is very intelligent and undeniably witty, all the while remaining sensitive to the themes involved, conducting itself with a gentle ebb and flow rather than screaming on-the-nose narration in your face. Despite this, however, the film doesn’t embrace a huge amount of subject matter to begin with. For a film that hasn’t got too much to deal with, it seems unnecessarily convoluted. The picture tries to be enigmatic through the masked personality of Fabienne and her uneasy relationship with her daughter, but in reality it comes across as slightly dull and lacking pizzazz – that little bit of magic to sweep the viewer off their feet.
The film’s language also flits between French and English due to certain cast members’ nationality, and of course the picturesque setting. In this day and age there is arguably no better time to create a foreign film and embrace the use of different languages. But whilst this can often heighten the sense of a lack of communication between various family members who do not speak the same language, it devalues the presence of Ethan Hawke’s character Hank as a result. You could be forgiven for even forgetting that he is in the movie at all at times, playing the B-rated American actor and husband, but banished behind the principals, in particular Deneuve, with ultimately very little relevance or influence on the direction of the narrative. His character doesn’t drink, for reasons initially unknown, only to then begin drinking again monumentally but to little consequence.
The uneven result, down to the time and effort invested in character development, may well serve as a reminder for the future not to leave supporting characters in the wings too long, lest their lack of presence counterbalances the heart and power of the main storyline. The Truth still makes for pleasant viewing, but it will instead target a specific audience rather than be a crowd-pleaser – not always a bad thing, I might add. The film received a mixed reception at Venice Film Festival and it is likely to see the same during its UK release.
The Truth is released in select cinemas on 20th March 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Truth here: