Based on a real-life miscarriage of justice, it's a surprisingly even-handed film that steps aside from the cheap manipulative emotionalism that riddles Mike Leigh's Vera Drake to present the good, the bad and the ugly sides of its abortionist protagonist without resorting to easy judgements. It's not a cry for or against abortion, merely offering the facts to the viewer to make up their own mind. Huppert's character is amoral in the purest sense of the word: she's not a crusader but a capitalist, doing favors and letting out her spare room to whores not out of principles but because she can make a good living out of it. More than that, she enjoys the role reversal and power it gives her as she becomes the breadwinner, keeping her husband (Francois Cluzet excellent in what could have been a nothing role) out of the way and out of her bed while she openly pursues other men. Only once does she stop to consider the moral consequences, but the moment quickly passes and it's back to business as usual. One side-effect of this is that the film never moves you, rather it engages you, but it manages to do so on many different levels.
It's not really a film about abortion but about sexual inequality and the corrupt patriarchical 'morality' of the Vichy government and the way they visited their own sins upon the population in the name of redeeming the nation's surrender through eliminating 'moral weakness.' But in this case it manages to deal with multiple themes and a more convincing look at human nature than Leigh's one-dimensional Vera Drake
Marie is no idealised heroine, but that still doesn't justify her
fate. The fact that Chabrol is surprisingly even handed and refuses to take moral sides only strengthens the film - this is a filmmaker on top of his game and with enough confidence in the material not to feel the need to make special pleading. There are weaknesses to the film, but they pale compared to its strengths, not least his unfussy and visually economic portrait of an occupied nation in denial of both its defeat and its own hypocrisy and weakness. As the film makes chillingly clear, the defeat gave the French the perfect opportunity to take revenge upon themselves.
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