Time Out rating:
Not yet rated
Time Out says
Tue Jul 22 2008Attempting to summarise the life of an entire city in a single film is not easy, particularly when that same place and its diverse citizens have been repeatedly sanctified, vilified and scrutinised on film. But Cedric Klapisch makes a decent fist of it, singling out a seemingly random cross-section of the Parisian populace and chronicling their ups and downs over two hours of scattered, fragmentary, interlocking narrative.
Central to the film is Juliette Binoche’s Elise, a single mother whose estranged brother Pierre (Romain Duris) has been diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. Binoche’s storyline highlights the film’s strengths and flaws. For every crafted, sympathetic scene, such as her tentative courtship of Albert Dupontel’s browbeaten grocer, there’s an equally winsome and grating one that attempts to sum up ‘the human condition’ and falls notably short.
There are a lot of interesting ideas, and some great performances: Fabrice Luchini is excellent as the history professor struggling to shake off his past. But too many characters get short shrift – and a subplot about illegal immigration barely registers and smacks of PC pandering. Perhaps the film’s key problem is the feeling that Klapisch lets his ambition obstruct his storytelling. It feels like the idea of the movie – an Altmanesque ensemble piece for a French audience – came first, with the director slotting his characters in afterwards like puzzle pieces, rather than working from a strong central premise and allowing the narrative to grow organically.
Author: Tom Huddleston