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The Truth (La Verite)

Marcianne Miller

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There are many reasons to see The Truth (or La Verite). It takes place in Paris. It’s the newest tale from Japanese film master, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, who made last year’s charming Shoplifters (but it’s not in Japanese—it’s in French and English). It’s one of those delightful films that has another film story embedded in it. The cinematography is discreet and serviceable with not an unnecessary show-off shot.

Most importantly, it’s a rare chance to see two French femme stars sharing screen time. Watching Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche interact with one another has got to be one of the cinematic highlights of the year.

Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve), the still radiant French cinema legend, has just published her long-awaited memoir. Arriving at Fabienne’s Parisian mini-estate from New York to congratulate her is her estranged daughter, screenwriter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), with her B-list actor husband (Ethan Hawke ) and their adorable daughter (Clementine Grenier). Lumir is appalled to realize from the memoir that her mother has brazenly fantasized their relationship to impress her adoring public. The truth is that Fabienne was neglectful, distant and abusive. For motherly kindness, Lumir turned to Sarah, her mother’s friend and rival, who killed herself after Fabienne stole a role from her. Lumir is devastated to discover that Fabienne doesn’t even mention Sarah. Showing up at the house also is Lumir’s father – who is amused to discover that Fabienne claims he has died!

While Fabienne is blithely lying to the world about everything, she’s playing an eeriely similar role in a sci-fi movie. A young woman (Manon Clavel), who is deathly ill, goes into outer space where she never ages. She comes back to Earth every several years, where both her daughter and her mother are aging in Earth years. While Fabienne plays the challenging role of the story’s mother, she deals with her jealousy of the younger actress and Lumir’s growing fury at her. Since both Fabienne and Lumir are civilized, fireworks don’t fly, but the hidden tensions between them are smoldering hot enough to make you squirm.

Hirokazu Kore-Eda gives the story his all--he directs, writes and edits the film, which is why every scene is exquisite. While you marvel at Fabienne’s ability to enchant everyone, like the magic creature in her famous film The Witch of the Vincennes, you also witness the agony of everyone caught in her web. I personally did not believe the sorta-happy ending, but I hope everyone who sees The Truth will decide for themselves if families can ever truly heal.

Rated PG for thematic and suggestive elements, and for smoking and brief language.

Languages: French and English.

Length: 106 min.

Opens in select theatres and most digital and cable platforms on July 3, 2020.



Edited by Marcianne Miller
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Not sure if there is a bigger Koreeda man than me on this forum, but I found this one less endearing when I saw it at Filmfest 919 last fall. Perhaps it was the film festival format that forced an early morning screening. (I remember Koreeda personally thanking everyone as they left the Scotiabank one year at TIFF for coming to a 9 am weekday screening). Perhaps a second viewing under better circumstances will help. 

It does feel to me like post After the Storm that he has moved in a more....commercial direction? I guess a lot of people felt Shoplifters was classic Koreeda, but The Third Murder and The Truth both try to bring in elements of genre or commercial cinema (A-list stars) in ways that felt a bit forced. 

Still, he's a treasure, and I'm glad this film is finding its way out into the world.

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No, there isn't a bigger Kore-Eda guy than you on the forum, and no, you're not wrong to have been underwhelmed by this film.  I saw it last December and was puzzled by how inconsequential and inert it was.  I mean, it's not distasteful or offensively bad, but just...inconsequential.  Nobody's going to blame the acting given this cast, and his directing seems to bring life to a varied type of stories, so I have to pin it on the writing.  Is it fair to wonder how much the film's failure was attributable to Kore-Eda just being overly cautious because he was working out of his cultural milieu?  I remember recalling before seeing the film a critic noting that Binoche was like a good luck charm for Hou and Kiarostami as non-English speakers successfully directing English films for the first time, so I  half-expected her to carry this one, but alas.  The narrative-within-the-narrative seemed so clunky, too.


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Wow, interesting replies. Except for the unbelievable, too forgiving, ending, I found this film quite absorbing... perhaps because the relationship between mothers and daughters is often so fraught with tension [and is definitely different from the relationship between mothers and fathers and also that between sons and their parents]--this film might have more relevance, and thus more impact, with femme viewers.  

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I am sorry to say that I know  his work only from last year's Shoplifters, which I adored, especially with the theme of how you can -- and sometimes should -- choose your own family. It was one of my favorite films of the year.

I thought The Truth (La Verite) was a different take on Family --about  how many people whose parents have mistreated them have to learn to divorce themselves from their parents-- or love them--and if they decide to love them then they have to accept that hate is also involved in that love. And with such mixed messages, Memory is the unreliable narrator of both their life stories. I also think that it is a story that would resonate with women more than men..

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  • 6 months later...

I delayed watching this since 2 of the 3 responses here were more negative than positive, and I have to say that Russ and Ken are a pair of poopypants.  I loved this film's themes of the unreliability (yet, of course, utter necessity) of memory, mixed in with its mother-daughter dynamics.  A film that elicits memories of Day for Night and Linklater/Hawke collaborations is also a good thing.  And Deneuve is such a delight to watch here, such a subtle communicator of emotional shifts when the scene calls for it.

My full review: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2021/01/movies-you-might-have-missed-in-2020-the-truth/ 

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa


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