Review ‘Truth’: Catherine Deneuve shines in a mother-daughter story

Playing an old star away from her daughter may not seem like a major move, but Deneuve and Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-ed (whose “Shoplifters took the most honors” at the Cannes Film Festival) turned that premise into a cinematic breath of fresh air.

Still, Deneuve brings his share of luggage to the screen. In 2018, she joined a group of women who signed an open letter denying what has been described as growing Puritanism and “hatred of people,” drawing distinctions between sexual assault and “clumsy flirtation”.
Published in the French newspaper Le Monde, the letter attracted a sharp response from feminist activists. Deneuve he later apologized victims of sexual assault, saying she never intended to create the impression that she justified the harassment.

Although that episode was messy in terms of public relations, everything about her latest film is extremely simple, but still touching. Much has to do with the non-apologetic nature of Deneuve’s Fabienne, who – basically what he said was a disgusting mother – makes it clear that she is also a movie star, and that’s where her priorities are.

The excavation of that history happens when her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche, also sensational) returns to France from New York with her husband the actor (Ethan Hawke) and their young daughter (Clementine Grenier). They reportedly came to celebrate the publication of her mother’s memoir, but Fabienne finds more than usual, taking on a supporting role in a sci-fi film she doesn’t like, starring a young starlet (Manon Clavel) whom she resents and envies.

The film within the film also talks about a mother-daughter relationship – albeit with a futuristic twist – that swings and informs of the tension between Fabienne and Lumira. “What a pain. She takes herself too seriously,” Fabienne mutters during a quick early exchange between the two of them. “From whom does she get it?”

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Adding to the problem, Fabienne’s longtime butler Luc (Alain Libolt) abruptly quits his job when he fails to even acknowledge it in his book. This creates a reason for Lumir to stay around, helping his mother through the process of making the film, trying to take his disgusting, rude attitude towards practically everyone around him.

Mostly in French with some English, “Truth” (or “La Verite” in France) could violate Seinfeld’s “don’t hug, don’t learn” rule, but it makes money by providing an amount of humor and sadness. The film also suggests that the childish ugliness and old wounds we inflict – especially on parents and family members – can be distorted over time. “You can’t believe the memory,” says Luc, who has seen it all.

The lion’s share of films redirected to streaming platforms and on demand since the coronavirus closed cinemas is, frankly, not very good, making the Oscars a unique exception – considering films first screened at home as potential nominees – mostly a brawl.

In contrast, Deneuve’s role in limiting his career is by all rights the one that should award the prize to voters. It’s a show that won’t be forgotten any time soon, and the X factor is what memories remain of other aspects of its history.

“Truth” premieres July 3 in selected theaters and on demand.

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