Starring Catherine Denuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke
Mother and daughter as protagonist and antagonist is a common theme in film. "The Truth" is different from the rest because, among other things, it's directed by the brilliant Hirokazu Koreeda who caught lots of attention last year with "Shoplifters." It’s his first film in a language other than Japanese and some of the discourse gets lost in the translation by this Japanese filmmaker working this time in English and French. There is a high wall between story and audience that never retracts in this film. We have seen this dynamic of estranged family members trying to find common ground in numerous English language films before, several this year alone. Koreeda seems intrigued by the celebrity lifestyle element to this particular story, but even that angle feels oversaturated.
Renowned French actress Fabienne (Deneuve) has just released her memoir. Continuing to work in film, mostly supporting roles at her age, she finds the new age of cinema “lukewarm.” Her estranged daughter Lumir, (Binoche) arrives in Paris with her family, to discuss the book which she says includes everything but the truth. A screenwriter in her own right, Lumir is married to American TV actor, Hank (Hawke), both of which infuriate Fabienne. The anger she feels for her narcissistic mother is tempered by her mother's condition, and the family interaction they are having for the first time.
"If Koreeda masters one thing here, it’s the iconic slow pacing of French cinema."
Binoche’s humourous quips will make you smile, but not laugh. Deneuve's scene-chewing and diva-like behavior is the most entertaining element of the film. Hawke gets to play the guitar once but otherwise, is relegated to the background. The narrative between mother and daughter struggles to find any new narrative territory. If Koreeda masters one thing here, it’s the iconic slow pacing of French cinema. The aeration of the story and script is a test of patience with no reward.
Maybe the worst thing about "The Truth" is the fact there’s little to discuss. All the discussions and revelations are superficial. Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is the time continuum, "Interstellar"-like space drama movie Fabienne is working on in the story. If the film could solely focus on Fabienne and cut out the shared points of view with Lumir, it would be stronger.
The truth is "The Truth" doesn’t give the audience much to hold on to.