A French haute-bourgeois family, Calais-based, live their lives, a microcosm of the minutiae of everyday events.
Octogenarian Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant – Amour, My Night With Maud) heads the family but he has passed the trucking business onto his daughter – Isabelle Huppert (Elle, The Piano Teacher). Into a family of adults living in the large rambling house enters 12 year-old Eve, daughter of Huppert’s brother from his first marriage.
Detached and icily controlled, director Michael Haneke’s (Amour, The White Ribbon) latest is a bourgeois, insidious soap opera as each quietly look for their own ‘happy end’.
It’s a quiet, solid English-language remake of the Argentinian Oscar-winning best foreign language film from 2009. But the original was hardly a thrill-a-minute revenge drama (and which inexplicably beat out Michael Haneke’s The White Riband and the French entry A Prophet for Oscar gold).
Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, August: Osage County) is pitch perfect in her bitterness and sorrow at the murder of her beloved daughter, Carolyn, amidst immediate post-9/11 paranoia and fears. But the weak link is the unconvincing relationship between Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian). Are we really to believe they carried a torch for each other over the 13 years of the film. I don’t think so.
It does the job and tells the story – but there’s just no sparkle.