Catherine Deneuve, a titan of European cinema, is the best reason to catch co-writer/director Julie Bertuccelli’s slightly strained but moving drama.
Naturally a long way from her radical work in the ’60s and ’70s with directors like François Truffaut, Roman Polanski and Luis Buñuel, this is still better (and darker) than many of the roles Deneuve is mostly trapped in these days. She’s allowed a little more depth and complexity than usual and obviously loves it.
It’s the first day of summer in the village of Verderonne and the well-to-do, almost-80 Claire Darling (Catherine) awakens and immediately sets about taking just about all of her belongings and moving them outside for an everything-must-go yard sale. It’s the folly or madness mentioned in the original French title (La Dernière Folie De Claire Darling/The Last Folly Of Claire Darling), and she’s obviously wandering in her mind a little, as she thinks she sees her young son Martin in the garden and even watches her own former self (played by Alice Taglioni) appear about the house hinting at several grim secrets.
An old family friend (Laure Calamy as Martine) tries to stop her to no avail, but then her long-estranged adult daughter Marie arrives (and she’s strongly played by Chiara Mastroianni, the offscreen daughter Deneuve had with the late great Marcello Mastroianni). Initially Claire thinks she’s imagining her too, but soon they’re digging up the painful past, as the family’s treasured memories and beloved possessions are grabbed for a few euros outside.
There’s nice work here from Calamy and Samir Guesmi as Marie’s old boyfriend Amir, and yet this really belongs to Mastroianni and Deneuve, who argue like only true family can and leave you suspecting, just maybe, that there’s some healing therapy going on here. Bertuccelli complicates everything a little too much, however, and we build to a series of revelations that feel a touch contrived.
But no matter, because Deneuve truly makes it all go off with a bang.
Claire Darling (M) is in cinemas now