“You mustn’t forget, but you can’t undo what’s done.” So goes the mission statement of One Day You’ll Understand (more cryptically and appropriately titled Later for its European release), Amos Gitai’s counterintuitive, diligently understated exploration of the legacy of anti-Semitism in a mixed-religion, middle-class French family.
Elusiveness is key here, as half-Jewish Parisian businessman Victor Bastien (Girardot) is thwarted in his efforts to reconstruct a family tree by the stubborn resistance of his mother, Rivka (octogenarian Moreau, still sassily beautiful), to clarify the fate of her parents during France’s Nazi occupation. Neither a damning document signed by his long-dead father nor admonitions from his sister (Blanc) and wife (Devos) dissuade Victor from pursuing the truth, but it’s his young children who pointedly receive Rivka’s confession.
As with 2000’s Kippur, Gitai invigorates the narrative drawn from Jérôme Clément’s autobiographical novel with a tactility that extends to location-shoot barriers (interior walls become featured players) and revelatory ambient sounds. The effect beautifully underscores the film’s thesis that memory is physical in basis and limited as moral compass, and helps render the seemingly meager fruits of Victor’s efforts—one scrap of paper—a moving vindication.