Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is best known for his quiet but heart-wrenching family dramas, and his newest and first foreign language film The Truth once again cements his status as one of the most empathic working filmmakers. Following on from the immensely successful Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2018, Kore-eda returns to well-trodden ground with the tale of a mismatched family in The Truth. Yet his savant eye for the complexity of familial dynamics and the way in which he beautifully captures the lyrical in everyday life make The Truth into another serene masterpiece from Kore-eda.
Lumir (Juliette Binoche) is a scriptwriter living in New York with her second-rate TV actor husband (Ethan Hawke) and their daughter Charlotte (Clementine Grenier). When her mother, legendary but acerbic French actress Fabienne (played by real-life legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve), publishes her memoir, Lumir returns to her old family estate in Paris to confront her mother about the things omitted from her book. During Lumir’s visit, mother and daughter try to reconcile their different memories of Lumir’s childhood.
The Truth is in many ways one of Kore-eda’s quietest films to date. It lacks the emotional gut punch of Shoplifters or the narrative conceit of Like Father, Like Son. There is no major conflict that has to be resolved, and at times it feels just like a window into the life of a family that is, despite their wealth and fame, painfully mundane. However, in that it
captures the intricacies of family dynamics so well. Old grudges are never laid to rest and pivotal childhood moments are misremembered by different people, and yet, despite all misgivings, the filial bond between Fabienne and Lumir holds on.
Over the course of the film, Binoche and Deneuve deliver wonderfully naturalistic
performances, their characters at various times cataloguing the accumulation of hurts they have dealt each other over the years. This too is reflected knowingly in the film that
Fabienne shoots during Lumir’s visit; a pastel science-fiction drama about a mother’s non-linear relationship with her daughter. It is not a subtle device, but it works because Kore-eda refuses to settle for clean answers, and it is often uncertain whether characters are putting on a performance or being truthful. In that, it oddly mirrors Kore-eda’s courtroom mystery The Third Murder, except that in The Truth the inevitable fallibility of memory is not painted as a horrifying by-product of existence — it is merely a fact of life. The past may be a foreign country, but, whether true or false, we can’t help but continue dwelling in it.
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[Amelie Voges – she/her – @amelieleav]