The Truth

Review by Willard Manus

The pace of the new French film THE TRUTH (La Verite) is turtle-like, the conflicts are low-key, but its star power keeps one watching.
Katherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoch play mother and daughter, so skillfully that you forget some of the time just how slow and dull the film is, a real snoozer.

Deneuve has the lead role, that of Fabienne, a famous but aging film star, the grand old lady of the industry. She lives in an elegant country home somewhere outside Paris, fawned over by her husband and a personal assistant. Fabienne’s memory might be weak, her hips may be widening, but her tongue is still sharp, her demeanor regal. She is presently celebrating the publication of her autobiography and is also starring in a sci-fi thriller aimed at Millenials, the generation which is happy to watch banal stories on their mobile phones.

Fabienne knows the film is crap but such is her ego that she can’t quit working and being a diva. A sour, judgmental woman, she barely cracks a smile when her daughter Lumir (Binoche) and her family arrive for a visit. Lumir, a screen-writer, is married to an American, “a second-class TV actor,” played by Evan Hawke in a wasted role. They have an 8-year-old daughter, Charlotte, but not even this delightful child can put a twinkle in Fabienne’s eye.

We finally learn what the sour-faced Fabienne’s problem is. She feels responsible for the death of Lumir’s beloved sister, Sarah. It was her selfish nature–-putting career above motherhood–-which caused her to neglect Sarah, leave her to die in a swimming accident.

Lumir, who has been estranged from her mother, arrives with the goal of patching things up between them. But for that to happen, she informs Fabienne in a crucial scene, you will need to tell me exactly what happened to Sarah. “Can you do it?”, she asks her. “Can you finally open up and be truthful about the role you played in her death?”

As someone whose life has been built on lies-–pretending to be someone else–-Fabienne is unable to change the way she thinks and behaves. All she can do is to stare at Lumir with tears of sadness and regret in her eyes.

Hirokazu Kore-eda is the writer/director of this tepid, hum-drum movie.