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STUDIO: MPI Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
Anyone want to get a bit depressed? Here you go.
Catherine Deneuve, Thomas Dumerchez, Guy Marchand. Directed by Gael Morel. Written by Christophe Honore and Gael Morel.
Catherine Deneuve plays Camille, a mother grieving the death of her only son in a car accident. As Camille grows closer to her late son’s best friend Franck (Dumerchez) she isolates herself from her family, including her ex-husband Francois. (Marchand)
Apres Lui is very good. By all accounts it is very much a character study of Camille, which may frustrate certain viewers seeing as the plot and its progression take a backseat to the examination of a mother in grief. The film begins quickly: Mathieu, the son, dies within the first minutes of the film, allowing the rest of the film to focus solely upon Camille and her process. This is not In the Bedroom where half the film is dedicated to wrapping us in the world of each character, including those who will die. Apres Lui is not concerned with other people – it is concerned very much with Camille only. Focusing uniquely on Camille allows for an intensely personal film, and while the narrative seems to lose steam about three-quarters of the way through, it is still a very engaging film.
Screenwriter Christophe Honore and writer/director Gael Morel create a film that feels nearly voyeuristic in its honesty and its examination of humanity. Morel fills the film with haunting images of very personal moments, such as the first time Camille drives out to the road where Mathieu died and sees the tree, scarred from the car’s impact. Morel has Camille return repeatedly to this place, each time on Camille’s journey it is different: its meaning has evolved with Camille. As she rubs and tears at the marks of the accident in the bark of the tree she is doubly trying to erase the scar from the tree as she is from herself, attempts at both are equally futile.
Catherine Deneuve is the heart of this film, and she produces a performance that is fully realized, multi-dimensional and overwhelmingly touching. To say she carries the film is an understatement. From the first phone call from the police, to the scene of her picking out Mathieu’s burial clothing to the film’s final moments she delivers a true tour-de-force. A film of this type requires much from an actor, and it would be easy to fall into repetitive histrionics, but Deneuve and Morel never allow it. She finds constant nuance and dimension for her performance, and it makes the film riveting. As Camille grows more and more obsessed with her son’s best friend who was driving during the fatal crash, Deneuve continues to create an honest portrait of a woman seeking every connection to her son that still exists. She captures perfectly the mourning that one experiences: not just for the life lost, but for all of the potential lost, as well that one grieves. It’s not just her son, but the grandchildren she will never see, the daughter-in-law that will never be. Deneuve carries this grief beautifully and realistically throughout the film. Whether she is seeking any form of connection with her son’s former friends or simply staring longingly at people his age, Deneuve finds the true humanity of it all and lays it, and herself, bare on film. Her grief-stricken alienation from her family and her growing obsession with Franck all feel natural truthful as opposed to a scripted obligation.
Though many disliked the experience, Catherine Deneuve found taking care of the Overlook Hotel more amusing than most.
The largest flaw of the film may not be a flaw at all, seeing as it is also Camille’s largest flaw: It never acknowledges any one else’s grief and mourning. It is fitting, though, seeing as this is a character study of Camille only. This lack of acknowledgment motivates much of Camille’s action throughout the film. The scene in which she brings Franck, too ashamed to have attended the funeral, to her apartment after the burial is a perfect example. Franck’s needs are ignored by Camille, and he is forced into an environment with people who blame him for another’s death. It’s one of the film’s most powerful scenes, and it comes because of Camille’s refusal to acknowledge anyone else’s needs besides her own during the time of crisis. The film never examines fully other characters, but it doesn’t really seem necessary. While this focus does seem to cause the film’s last act to sputter slightly, it never hinders it enough to harm the excellence in the film beforehand. This is Camille’s story, and it is sufficient.
Apres Lui is a quietly powerful film. It is slight and subtle, but most of all it is emotionally honest.
The only special feature is the theatrical trailer. For those curious, the film is unrated, but would most likely be PG or PG-13 due to the mature subject matter.
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