Film Reviews, News & Competitions



Film Information

Plot: A young girl living in the French countryside suffers constant indignities at the hand of alcoholism and her fellow man.
Release Date: 14 December 2020
Format: Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)
Director(s): Robert Bresson
Cast: Nadine Nortier, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Marie Cardinal
BBFC Certificate: 15
Running Time: 81 mins
Review By: Samuel Love
Film Rating


Bottom Line

Mouchette is a masterful work that brings Barnanos’ harrowing text to life with a genuine, raw power.

Posted December 7, 2020 by

Film Review

In one of the bleakest years in recent memory, nothing says cinematic escapism like Robert Bresson’s Mouchette, described by distributor Criterion as “one of the most searing portraits of human desperation ever put on film”. Following the titular Mouchette as she deals with her dying mother, absent alcoholic father and baby brother in need of care, this minimalist drama is one of the most tragic and downright depressing films ever made. 

At a brief 81 minutes, Mouchette is a shattering and sparse portrait of a miserable existence. Despite some haunting beauty in the cinematography from Ghislain Cloquet, this is not an even remotely enjoyable viewing experience. Similar in tone to 2019’s The Painted Bird, Mouchette is a harrowing experience that sees a young character facing countless hardships and terrible cruelty. Based on the 1937 novel of the same name by Georges Barnanos, this sombre study of despair has gone on to achieve classic status as one of Bresson’s most acclaimed films. But it’s arguable whether this is a film that anyone would particularly want in their collections. Rewatchability is non-existent, as I can’t imagine any reason why anybody would want to experience this grim film more than once.

With all of that being said, perhaps it should be also be stated that the filmmaking behind Mouchette is second-to-none, transporting the viewer into its tragic, colourless world. Stunningly shot in Bresson’s typical slow and understated style, the film spends most of its short runtime simply observing Mouchette as she processes the hardships of her life. With no previous acting experience, the young Nadine Nortier is incredible in the titular role – portraying a hopeless vulnerability that feels genuine. The cast is made up entirely of non-professional actors, lending a painful authenticity to the bleakness of the setting and the narrative.

This is a bleak, tragic viewing experience that will bring no joy to the viewer whatsoever, but those interested in the craft of cinema will find a lot to admire in Bresson’s acclaimed work. Mouchette is a masterful work that brings Barnanos’ harrowing text to life with a genuine, raw power. 

Criterion’s release presents the film in a hauntingly beautiful 4K restoration, along with some insightful supplements including a 1967 documentary on the set of Mouchette. But it’s debatable whether this is a film that the majority of people are going to want on their shelf.

Samuel Love

Freelance writer. Email:


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