MUBI UK film review: The Truth
Luke Channell | On 20, Mar 2020
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke
Watch The Truth online in the UK: MUBI UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / CHILI
Renowned for his moving, humanistic dramas, Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with another exploration of complex family dynamics. Yet this French dramedy sees the acclaimed director in slightly unfamiliar territory, working outside of Japan and departing from his native language. Drom the very first frame, The Truth feels unmistakably French with its Parisian mansion location, soft piano score and conversational style – not to mention the presence of French film icon Catherine Deneuve in the lead role. Kore-eda skilfully embraces this French sensibility while maintaining the gentle, emotionally engaging tone of his previous films.
In a self-aware role, Deneuve stars as ageing French movie star Fabienne who is equal parts stubborn, haughty and snobbish. With her memoirs about to be published, Fabienne’s daughter, Lumir (Juliette Binoche), a screenwriter, returns to Paris alongside her American husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke), a TV actor, and their bilingual daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier). But long-standing resentments are soon stoked up when Lumir discovers that her mother’s memoirs distort the truth.
Lumir particularly takes issue with the maternal depiction of her mother and the exclusion of Sarah from the memoirs, a friend and rival to Fabienne who committed suicide many years ago. Fabienne is too preoccupied filming a new sci-fi movie to address Lumir’s concerns, although her co-star’s uncanny resemblance to Sarah acts as a constant reminder of a past she chooses to hide from. Their troubled relationship is destined for confrontation as years of resentment and neglect comes to the boil.
It was always going to be difficult to follow up the success of Kore-eda’s previous film, Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and The Truth fails to hit the former’s lofty heights. The narrative lacks the emotional stakes and dramatic sucker-punches that make Kore-eda’s best films so deeply affecting. It’s often a little too slight and the prickly family drama on show doesn’t feel as vital or impactful as his Japanese works.
Despite this, Kore-eda is still an expert at tackling familial themes and he brings plenty of sensitivity and charm to proceedings. He has a real gift in crafting utterly believable family units and there’s a real elegance and quiet poignancy to the way he delicately examines these deep-seated relationships. The script, which Kore-eda penned, is also typically graceful, full of wry dialogue and tender moments along with some thoughtful contemplation on the unreliability of memory.
Undeniably, The Truth’s biggest draw is witnessing its stellar cast on reliably great form. It’s brilliantly entertaining watching Deneuve play a vain, domineering film diva while Binoche is equally impressive in a quieter but by no means less compelling role. Their witty exchanges, full of concealed digs and barbs, are a constant delight to behold. Kore-eda elicits a real naturalism from all the performers, including Hawke, who is as endearing as ever. Although not among Kore-eda’s most satisfying works, The Truth paints a wistful, warm and amusing family portrait.
The Truth is now available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.