Assayas' adaptation of Jacques Chardonne's novel - about the heir (Berling) to a devoutly Protestant porcelain dynasty in Charente, and his life-changing encounter in 1900 with the non-conformist niece (Béart) of a family friend - is typically intelligent, elliptical, and beautifully acted. It's also, perhaps a little surprisingly given Assayas' earlier work, a little dull and banal, rounding off its survey of some four decades of personal and societal change with an over-extended, trite conclusion that love is all important, and never quite letting us forget that the protagonist is for the most part a selfish, sanctimonious bore - even his embittered but absurdly faithful ex-wife, immaculately played by Huppert, is more sympathetic. (Is the protagonist's eventual devotion to the ceramic arts an apology for cinematic obsession and craftsmanship on Assayas' part? Who knows? The character's still a bore.) Ambitious, efficient, sensitive, but a little disappointing.