Martha (Valerie Donzelli) is hardly an ideal mother to her six-year-old daughter Lise (Lucie Regnier), and while her husband Reymond (Yann Goven) is loving and sympathetic, he isn't sure ...
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Martha (Valerie Donzelli) is hardly an ideal mother to her six-year-old daughter Lise (Lucie Regnier), and while her husband Reymond (Yann Goven) is loving and sympathetic, he isn't sure what to do for her. Reymond makes a meager income selling used clothing at a flea market, and Martha is hard put to support the family's budget on what he earns. Martha has a checkered past and a less than cordial relationship with her family, and when she decides to visit her parents, they coldly tell her they were hoping her sister Marie (Lydia Andrei), currently living in Spain, had stopped by instead. Stung by the incident, Martha decides she wants to talk to her sister, and she drags Reymond and Lise along for a Spanish vacation they can ill afford. As it turns out, Marie and her husband Juan (Javier Cruz) aren't much happier to see Martha than her parents were, and a night out at a restaurant turns into a bitter quarrel when Martha's neuroses get the better of her. After the incident, Martha ... Written by
Martha is a woman with problems. She is not the ideal mother for her daughter Lise, or the ideal wife for her husband Reymond : she taunts Lise with lines like "you spoil everything", and stays out at bars while Rey takes care of everything. Her childhood is never really disclosed, but she is shunned from her family, who regard her as some kind of an embarrassment.
The characters in this film are wonderfully fleshed out : Martha, who knows she is acting stupidly but can't stop herself; Lise, their intelligent daughter; and Reymond, the loving father who manages to keep it all together during the films intense third quarter.
This beautifully crafted character study is written with a humanist attitude. Every time you think Rey is going to leave, he pulls together and tries to create a world for his family again. It also boasts some of the most compelling scenes in contemporary cinema : witness the visit to Martha's sister's house; the moment by the river shared between Martha and Lise (you'll know it when you see it); and the unbearably touching Christmas scene.
The complex script is matched by extraordinary performances from all, particularly Yann Goven (Reymond), who brings an equal sense of pathos/heroism to his challenging role, which alone helps this film transcend it's possible miserablism. It also features, surprisingly for this genre, some gorgeous framing. The sparse use of music is also perfect.
A gritty contemporary neo-realist piece, this amazing film is about never giving up on people, no matter how dire the situation (indeed it is even dedicated to "the need for consolation").
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