Can a performance be outstanding and understated at the same time? It’s the best description I can come up with for Isabelle Huppert in this low-key story of a woman whose life is undergoing major changes.
The life events come thick and fast, (ageing parents, relationship difficulties, getting too old for the job) but there are no histrionics, Huppert’s character just gets on with it as most of us have to do with stuff that happens to us.
Yet everything she’s feeling is in her eyes, so it’s most definitely not emotionless. It’s very, very touching – and perhaps that also has something to do with my own age and personal circumstances, in that I could completely understand her. She rarely stops moving, with the camera circling around her as she is at home, on a country walk or at work, and those moments when she does stop to feel are beautifully handled and not melodramatic.
Huppert plays a philosophy teacher, and there are scenes where the film does appear to be teetering on the brink of pretension however – young Parisian students sitting under a tree discussing the meaning of truth and reality and quoting French philosophers may seem a little far-fetched, but it all seems quite normal to them. Maybe it really is like that in Paris, who knows?
As if to force the point home, there’s a scene (which I really enjoyed) in which Huppert goes to the cinema and we see that she is watching Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, a film in which truth and reality are challenged.
If I really struggled with one element of the movie, though, it was the final scene. No spoilers, but having spent the previous 90 minutes in the company of this capable woman who could look after herself and found fulfilment in her career, the conclusion seemed to contradict this for me – but that’s life, I suppose.
But as a vehicle for an older actress, which are few and far between, it was highly welcome, and Huppert was immense.