“I prefer to have been a bad mother, a bad friend, and a good actress. You may not forgive me, but the public does.”
For years, films have taken a look at the complex relationship between mothers and daughters. The strained relationships like August: Osage County (2013). The manipulative relationships like the one in Mildred Pierce (1945). Or even the turbulent, but loving relationships, like Ladybird (2017). A genre that can easily cause a new film to be looked at as typical, or played out. The Truth is Japanese director, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s, first time branching out from his native Japanese tongue. His take on French film examines a mother-daughter relationship by creating a beautiful film filled to the brim with talents from both in font, and behind, the camera.
Parisian actress, Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve), sits in her home, sunlight splashing across her face, as the journalist sitting across from her asks another question about her illustrious body of work. Fabienne is the ultimate actress — the embodiment of classic cinema. Her new memoir is about to be released, calling on her devoted fans and friends to once again applaud her career — giving Fabienne an excuse to be the center of attention. But unlike her many admirers, Fabienne’s daughter, Lumir, begrudgingly arrives with her young daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), and her unsuccessful actor, husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke). The mother-daughter relationship between Fabienne and Lumir is, to say the least, severely strained. From the moment Lumir arrives, perfectly timed as Fabienne is being interviewed for a publication, the ladies begin their subtle jabs towards one another. The journalist going as far to say, “you have guests. I’ll leave you.” To which Fabienne replies, “it’s nothing. My daughter and her little family.” The initial sarcasm is playful at first, but eventually escalates into full on fights, and hurtful remarks, causing tears to stream down their faces.
The memoir has remained a secret up until now. Lumir’s frustration about not being given an advanced copy, comes to a head as she ends up reading the majority of the book in one day —confronting her mother that the so-called memories between the two of them in her book, never happened. “My memoir, my memories,” Fabienne responds. Fabienne’s misinformed memory isn’t what makes Lumir upset, but rather the inadequacies of Fabienne’s parental role that have long plagued her daughter’s life. But with the release of this new memoir, like so many tell-all books, Fabienne unearths the shallow grave where all the skeletons are buried.
It may be hard to fully separate real life and fiction when watching The Truth. You can’t help but think, all negative aspects aside, maybe Deneuve walks around learning her lines in her garden, or wraps herself in a leopard skin coat as she walks her little dog. There’s a deeper theme that goes hand and hand with the mother-daughter storyline. A glimpse into the world of an aging actress, whose name used to be in lights, but now remains subtle whispers. The Truth – no doubt— brings out the best acting Deneuve has produced in years, and showcases those familiar talents that we love to see. She effortlessly juggles both the drama and comedy in ways that can often plague even the best actors. Binoche, who plays Lumir, has a wonderful chemistry with Deneuve. The acting between the two of them, and Hawke, make the film feel real – as though you are truly seeing the problems of this family slowly unfold before your eyes. Kore-eda brilliantly illustrates the life of the family by quietly telling their story and not putting them in an “out of the ordinary” situation. The narrative flows perfectly as Kore-eda splices together the story of Fabienne and Lumir with Fabienne’s new film, appropriately named, Memories of My Mother.
Kore-eda breaks new ground in his career with The Truth. His talents in family storytelling provides a base in which to build this film on. Everything about the film comes together so smoothly — a finished product that is near perfection. The Truth amplifies the idea that though we patiently search for answers in our life, especially when it involves someone else, we may never fully receive the whole truth.
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke