Acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda assembles a staggeringly impressive cast for his English/French language debut, with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche leading The Truth (La vérité). The two leading ladies soar in this gentle and wistful character piece, delivering an engaging take on family relationships against a backdrop of European cinema.
Written and directed by Koreeda, The Truth sees Deneuve star as Fabienne – a screen queen whose career has entered its autumnal period. After releasing her memoir she is cast in a sci-fi drama, where she sees stark parallels with a figure from her past in rising young IT girl (Manon Clavel). The arrival of her screenwriter daughter Lumir (Binoche) and her husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) prompts something of a stormy reunion, and begins to shine a symbolic reflection to Fabienne’s new film role.
Koreeda casts a gentle gaze on the proceedings – his style is light and breezy, capturing the warm continental interiors of Fabienne’s country home with which he fills with intelligently crafted, emotionally viable characters. Eric Gautier’s inviting cinematography furthers this appeal and creates a charming canvas for this wistful tale to unfold upon. With the addition of Alexei Aigui’s delicate emotive piano score, The Truth feels more like the work of an experienced French auteur than that of a Japanese filmmaker making a transition to the West.
With Fabienne’s personal assistant absent, Lumir temporarily becomes her mother’s go-to – a narrative angle that manages to explore the fractured dynamic between both women, whilst also casting some intriguing parallels between Fabienne’s film role. Whilst initially shaky, the gradual reparation of the mother-daughter relationship and Fabienne’s quiet dependence on her previously distant daughter Lumir makes for a lightly engaging narrative angle. Meanwhile Fabienne’s film role explores a mother living in space (and not ageing) who makes infrequent trips back to earth to check in on her daughter (with Deneuve’s Fabienne playing her in her later years) making an interesting comparison to Lumir making trips to the France to check in on her ageing mother.
Whilst the humour is gentle, Deneuve brings a fun sharpness to the role of screen titan Fabienne – a woman who does not suffer fools gladly as seen in her barbed jabs and biting star persona. Yet the skill in Deneuve’s performance transcends a caricature of a leading lady – there is a vulnerability and fear that creeps through this sharp, glamorous exterior. Binoche is engrossing as the daughter cautiously rebuilding a cohesive relationship with her tough-love favouring mother – becoming something of a sparring partner as they sift through past regrets and injustices. Deneuve and Binoche are magnificent here with Koreeda crafting a film which capitalises on the talents of both his leading ladies.
The Truth plays as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. It is on general UK release from March 20th.