This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 30th June 2013
Granted, this is a beautiful film. Audrey Tautou is exquisite (recognised for so much more than Amélie nowadays – this role more in keeping with her Coco Chanel rendition). Gilles Lellouche is just as dashing as he was in Little White Lies, playing Thérèse’s mismatched husband, Bernard. The provincial landscape is verdant; the sun shines. This is everybody’s fantasy of France.
And to top it off, this latest adaptation of Mauriac’s famous French novel was the last film to be directed by the legendary Claude Miller, who died a month before the film screened at Cannes last year. But a fine-looking movie with fine collaborators does not always a fine film make.
Thérèse is a strong-willed young woman of means, growing up in south-west France in the 1920s (cue: sensational costuming among the pine trees). She knows she has thoughts and feelings about the world that aren’t necessarily shared by others, but agrees to marry her friend’s brother and settle down. She rapidly finds that domestic life is stifling rather than comforting, and chooses a method of escape that leads to disaster.
Despite all of the elements promising so much, Thérèse Desqueyroux feels somewhat bloodless, forgettable once you step out of the cinema into the daylight of reality. It’s a shame – Thérèse’s dilemma continues to have resonance with contemporary women, and Tautou’s performance is delightful, but perhaps more because of her beauty than her heroine’s internally-played predicament.