Juliette Binoche shines in compelling French film ‘The Truth’
Some actresses simply convey truth.
No matter what roles they play, or films they make, these performers discover the essential subtleties of expression that naturally bring characters to life without ever letting the technique behind the performances show. And they naturally become the people they play no matter who those people may be.
Since 1996 when Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for “The English Patient” - she has never let an artificial moment appear on screen. No matter what roles she plays - even something as absurd as her brief appearance (before she was killed) in “Godzilla” in 2013 - this sublime artist makes us believe in the truth of every performance. And her work in the new film “The Truth” reminds us why we crave each opportunity to see her work.
Cast as a writer navigating the nuance of a complex relationship with her mother, Binoche makes us believe every moment of a woman’s search for the truth of such an essential bond. This successful lady arrives in Paris with her husband - played by Ethan Hawke - and their daughter to visit the family matriarch, a famous actress played with relish by (the legendary) Catherine Deneuve who is about to celebrate the release of her memoir. While Binoche quickly points out how this nonfiction work may not always convey truth in what these women actually shared over the years, Deneuve immediately points out how truth can be overrated. And, while Deneuve may bask in her own versions of what actually has happened, Binoche chooses to live within authentic boundaries that past and present create. How these strong women search for common ground to share gives the film its narrative drive while giving us a thoroughly entertaining visit to the movies. From the comfort of home.
Within a brisk 106 minutes, “The Truth” freely moves from precise humor to penetrating drama as these women explore how the years can change what people can reasonably expect from each other. In bravura performances, each actress relishes the chance to dive into rich roles that bring to life the dynamics between generations. While the daughter may resent the attention she never received as a child, her mother openly expresses an unwillingness to share the welcome stage. Both women bring their own versions of fairness to a relationship where each clearly keeps score without any willingness to declare the other a victor.
What makes the film such a delight is how these dynamics never get caught up in the soap opera layers that such a story could create. Instead of letting these women take themselves too seriously, we’re treated to a marvelous visit with two people who clearly care for each other, while never doubting the unique ability each has to make the other decidedly uncomfortable. How they reflect the tensions that can exist in families off the screen creates a sublime onscreen experience.
“The Truth” is rated PG for “thematic and suggestive elements, and for smoking and brief language.” The film is in French (with subtitles) and English, and is available on demand as well as streaming on a range of platforms. It runs 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Content: High. How a mother and daughter navigate the layers of a relationship offers an entertaining view of the dimensions of love within a family.
Entertainment: High. Thanks to pitch-perfect performances from Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve, these two ladies become compelling characters we can cherish.
Message: High. As entertaining as the film can be, what lingers after its ending is the love that survives between these two women.
Relevance: High. Any opportunity to introduce our older children to the layers of family relationships can be welcome.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film with your older children, talk with them about the dynamics that can cross generations within a family.