There’s something almost annoyingly tasteful about this adaptation of the 1927 French novel by François Mauriac. It’s too classy and restrained to unlock the emotions of husband-poisoner Thérèse, played here by Audrey Tautou. Thérèse is one of literature’s feisty females – born without the normal gene. (See also Anne Shirley in ‘Anne of Green Gables’, and Emma Bovary.) She thinks too much, reads too much and smokes like a chimney. Her family owns half the forests around Bordeaux. And in the tradition of old money, Thérèse is married off like a thoroughbred racehorse to the neighbouring landowner’s son – thick-as-a-plank Bernard (Gilles Lellouche).
Thérèse thinks marriage will cure her of the thoughts racing round her head. But after a few years she’s reaching for the arsenic. Tautou gives a self-possessed, complex performance as Thérèse – we sense a dam-burst of rage and boredom behind her mask. Otherwise, Claude Miller’s final film (he died shortly after making it) is a tad on the stiff side.