Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apres Lui (2007)

Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary in this portrait of Camille, a self assured and successful woman who comes undone by sudden and shocking grief, as the death of her university student son in an automobile accident leaves a deep and irreparable void. She finds conventional coping methods utterly ineffective, and her grief eventually causes her to pursue a perilous path.

Camille’s ex-husband, well played by Guy Marchand, and pregnant daughter (Elodie Bouchez), can only watch, as we see Camille slowly unravel and focus more and more of her attention on her late son’s best friend (Thomas Dumerchez), who is nearly paralyzed with his own guilt and deep remorse. As Camille becomes involved in every aspect of this young man’s life, we see that she is not just seeking a replacement for her lost son, but a kind of profound solace that pushes their relationship to the brink of forbidden territory.

“Apres Lui" is a well told and quite believable tale, as director Gael Morel wisely avoids any manipulative pathos. We feel what we should feel simply watching this story unfold, and no one has to beat us over the head with overwrought melodrama. The art direction and cinematography are also quite strong, as the palette of deep greens and blues serve to make Deneuve even more striking and luminous than usual.

Not that Catherine needs the help, as she dominates this subtle film as only a seasoned professional can. In fact, in the full flower of her maturity, Deneuve is no longer merely an actress. She has become a force of nature.

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