À Propos de Joan (About Joan)
During a conversation with a man who would dearly (and desperately) like to be her lover, Joan Verra (Isabelle Huppert) is accused of not quite feeling emotional enough for the situation. With about as much sharpness as the moment calls for, she replies that she does in fact feel emotions; they just happen to be different ones. This assessment could sum up many of the characters Huppert has played throughout her storied career: complex, layered creations, who face the world with a mixture of calculation and instinct. While her Joan Verra in About Joan is another masterwork of guarded turbulence, there aren’t many surprises on offer in the film.
Beginning with a Fleabag-ish direct-to-camera confessional (which is barely used and serves little purpose), Joan begins to reminisce about her past. As a young woman (played by Freya Mavor) in the late 70s, Joan visits Ireland, the country of her father’s birth. One abrupt love affair later, and the young woman becomes an accidental mother. In the present day, she travels to her expansive home in the French countryside, where she’s joined by her son Nathan (Swann Arlaud), whose unexpected appearance further compels Joan to take a walk down the slippery cobbles of memory lane.
Huppert is as formidable as ever, with About Joan screening at the 2022 Berlinale as part of the festival’s tribute to the actress (and her lifetime achievement award). It’s a strong performance in a film that doesn’t entirely engage on an emotional level – perceptive enough, without being penetrating. The star plays to her strengths, but there’s a sense of familiarity about the character; the audience isn’t challenged, and (one suspects) nor is Huppert. The scenes in Ireland have a vibrancy to them that is absent from later scenes, and this isn’t entirely down to the decades that have passed in Joan’s life. About Joan doesn’t quite fill one up – the experience is like eating an intricately prepared dish at a chic restaurant, and still wanting to stop for burgers on the way home.
À Propos de Joan (About Joan) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.