‘The Truth’ Movie Review

When you have a cast consisting of French actresses Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche together with American actor Ethan Hawke, that’s attraction enough. Further, a film written and helmed by the Cannes winning Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (Shoplifters, 2018) adds an intriguing element, as this is his first non-Japanese film shot outside of his home country.

Deneuve plays an aging French film actress, Fabienne Dangeville, who has just written a memoir. Already 50,000 sold––and boasting to her daughter twice that number––the success in book sales, however, cannot rescue her from the dimming of her career as a film star.

Reminiscent of French director Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) where Binoche herself plays a French actress sinking into oblivion as prime acting roles go to the younger and much more popular personalities. But The Truth is lighter in mood and sprinkled with comedic effects and subtle humour.

Fabienne’s daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), a screenwriter living in New York, comes all the way to Paris on the occasion of her mother’s book publishing, her husband Hank (Ethan Hawke), an actor, and daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier) in tow. To Lumir, it’s a homecoming after a long while. Cracks between her and her overbearing mother surface as soon as she enters the house.

First off, she’s upset that Fabienne didn’t let her read the manuscript before publication as she had promised. Now reading it for the first time that night, anger replaces disappointment. She confronts her mother the next morning:

 “Who are you kidding? I can’t find any truth in here.”

Fabienne, of course, doesn’t care what her daughter thinks. It’s her memoir, her take. In the book, she presents herself as a loving mother, like finding joy in picking her daughter up from school. Lumir says it’s untrue, for her mother had never picked her up from school, always her dad Pierre (Roger Van Hool) or the family’s faithful servant Luc (Alain Libolt). Her memory of Fabienne is an absent mother who basks in the limelight of her own stardom. In reply, Fabienne says:

“I’m an actress. I won’t tell the naked truth. It’s far from interesting.”

As for Hank, effectively played by Hawke, his duty seems to be there only to support his wife. Not knowing French, Hank is a complete outsider. And in the eyes of his celebrity mother-in-law, he can hardly be called an actor. Daughter Charlotte has a few delightful scenes on the subject of truth and fantasy.

The next day, they all follow Fabienne to the studio for the rehearsal of a film she’s in, but playing a minor role with the major star being a younger, reputed actress Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel). Now the conflict shifts from mother daughter to that of the fading star and rising talent.

The studio setting is another layer Koreeda has created to bring out cinematic ‘truth’. The green screen itself by its very function works as a fake background, ‘deceiving’ in its purpose. Further, special touch up can alter even the eye colour of the actor. And most hilarious of all, but all wrapped in a serious tone, what we see is an intense scene between two characters alone on screen is actually hovered over in a short distance by a horde of people who are not in costume doing their real-life job. Sarcasm and humour are the subtle effects from scenes like that. Koreeda’s insight is astute in revealing what filmmaking is: fiction pretending to be real.

The middle part of The Truth about the studio shooting is a little weighed down as a play-within-a-play based on a short story by the acclaimed science fiction writer Ken Liu. This section of the movie is complex and multi-layered. While intriguing, it requires more than one viewing for clarity. This too, could well be Koreeda’s intension as he directs a French film, inserting a story within a story, which is a French artistic device, the mise en abyme. Like standing between two mirrors, one can see multiple images.

Overall, The Truth is a light-hearted feature, leisurely paced with embedded humour. Koreeda’s intention might be more cerebral than comical. The cast in itself is appealing enough, presenting a piece of cinema verité showing that truth is elusive even among the closest of family or the most sincere of artistic expressions.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

The Truth is now on Netflix.


In participation of Paris in July hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea

Related Ripple Reviews:

Clouds of Sils Maria directed by Olivier Assayas

Our Little Sister directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

Seattle International Film Festival 2017

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is the largest film festival in the United States, with an annual average attendance of 155,000. The 43rd SIFF kicks off tomorrow, May 18. For 25 days until June 11, film lovers in the Seattle area will be treated to a smorgasbord of films to whet their appetite: features, documentaries, shorts, premieres, competitions, from archival to avant-garde, and any genres to match their mood. SIFF 2017 offers close to 400 titles coming from over 70 countries.

What’s the difference between watching films in a Film Festival (FF) and watching movies in a theatre? You might ask. First off, in a FF, the international aspect is emphasized. True, you’ll have to read subtitles for those not in English, but watching foreign language films is one of the easiest ways to appreciate another culture and expand empathy. You’ll likely find there are more things in common than differences among us all.

Another special feature about FF is that many of the productions are from independent filmmakers. Hollywood and blockbuster movies are the mainstay in our Cineplexes, but in FF’s, we can savor the creative fruits from individual artists. Every year, SIFF receives over 4000 independent film submissions. It is therefore an honor for a film to be an ‘official selection’ at a major FF.

Some of them have come to compete, in other words, you will see quality productions. The SIFF website notes that more than 70% of the films screened at the Festival will not return to theaters. Many of these are works of film arts that are not distributed in commercial theaters. Of course we wish them all the best, especially quality ones and competition winners, as film industry buyers and distributors will be eyeing for good films at FF’s, ready to distribute them for the largest exposure possible later in theatrical releases.


In the Seattle area this weekend? Love French films? I’ve a recommendation for you. Here’s my capsule review.

The Midwife


Two venerable French actresses in one comedy drama is a major attraction from the director of Séraphine, Martin Provost. Claire (Catherine Frot) is an expert midwife, the encourager of new births. Her personal life though isn’t as up-lifting. One day her deceased father’s former mistress reappeared in her life, hurtful memories re-emerge. She is Béatrice, played by the legendary Catherine Deneuve. Their reunion sparks off comic and dramatic clashes. Béatrice is everything Claire avoids: booze, cigarettes, red meats, frivolity. Yet reconciliation is the only way to deal with their lot in life.


The Midwife will screen in Seattle this Friday and Saturday May 19, 20, and Tuesday, May 30. CLICK HERE to SIFF’s webpage for more info, trailer and tickets.


Related Post:

Séraphine and the Wrought-iron Chair