A nice bit of foreign – Leaving / Anything for Her
Kristin Scott Thomas is one of Britain’s finest actresses, and has lived in France for more than half her life – so she is truly bilingual, and it’s thrilling to watch her in French films. She was particularly superb in I’ve Loved You So Long, playing an English woman returning to France after 15 years in prison – her French was fluent but English-accented, presumably on purpose – whereas in Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) she plays a Frenchwoman, and (to my ear at least) you couldn’t tell she’s not. With that degree of versatility alone, I think she’s brilliant.
In Leaving, Scott Thomas plays the adulterous wife in a well-to-do, middle class family, who has a passionate affair with a builder. Her acting is typically excellent, and the story demands some intense and violent moments between husband and wife, and wife and lover. Unfortunately, however, the story doesn’t deliver anything particularly new – there is a vaguely convoluted attempt at a crime caper that goes horribly wrong, and the ending is fairly shocking, but the affair develops so quickly we’re not given time to empathise with any of the characters and their subsequent dilemma. Yvan Attal is terrific as the nasty husband, but all in all the protagonists are not likable, and by the end I didn’t much care what happened to any of them (let alone that something good would transpire out of the awful situation they’d placed themselves in). To my mind, KST’s previous French films come much more highly recommended.
Anything for Her (Pour elle)
Most of the French films released regularly in this country are fairly average French farces – admittedly there does seem to be a market amongst the older, retired crowd, but personally I don’t think they offer much that is different, clever or engaging. Anything for Her breaks this mould, and joins the ranks slightly below some other excellent French thrillers such as Tell No One, Read my Lips and The Beat My Heart Skipped (all highly recommended by this reviewer).
Anything for Her throws us headfirst into the action as we hear sounds of violence and pain over the opening credits, then see a man driving erratically, with blood-covered face, presumably during a get-away of some kind. Cut to 3 years earlier when the same man is happily ensconced in family life one morning, only for the police to burst through the door and arrest his wife for murder. We are quickly apprised of the situation – she has been wrongly convicted and imprisoned for 20 years, and he will do anything to save her.
Vincent Lindon holds the film together as Julien, single dad on the “outside”, and devoted husband to Diane Kruger (of Inglourious Basterds and Troy). Vincent embarks on a crime caper of his own when he decides to break his wife out of prison – complete with using his bedroom wall as bulletin board (like we’re used to in The Wire and various crime programmes) and holding up a local drug dealer in order to get the money needed for a life on the run.
To this end, the film veers into slightly far-fetched territory (with the eventual police chase a veritable example of convenient movie timing) but Lindon’s performance is so earnest and desperate, his face so handsomely haggard, that we are captivated to the last. This sure beats the banality of Priceless and watered-down passion of Coco Before Chanel – when it comes to crime, the French certainly know how to thrill.