You know what they say; waiting for critically-acclaimed French dramas to come out for home consumption is like waiting for a bus… Yes, those lovely folks at Picturehouse Entertainment have given us not one but two magnificent films from the République française on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital. C’est magnifique!
Léonor Serraille’s Mother and Son is a beguiling family drama, epic in scope but gentle and understated in delivery. The film is a poignant and intimate portrait of family, with a novelistic approach that allows the characters to feel fully lived-in and developed. It is very loosely structured, and this threatens to cause the film’s pacing to suffer – there are large swathes of the film that feel, on the surface, to be very uneventful. But it is these quiet moments that makes the film such an effective character study. The film follows Rose (a phenomenal Annabelle Lengronne), the film’s titular mother, as she moves from the Ivory Coast to Paris with her two young sons. Over the next 20 years, their family is constructed and deconstructed as sons Jean and Ernest struggle to find a sense of belonging as they reconcile their challenging upbringing.
Alice Winocour’s Paris Memories, loosely inspired by the filmmaker’s brother’s experiences during the 2015 Bataclan attack in Paris, is a powerful and thoughtful exploration of trauma. These are weighty themes to deal with – especially with the source of inspiration still so fresh in many people’s minds – but Winocour’s film makes sure to deal with it sensitively, focusing just on the human consequences of terrorism and the long road to recovery and closure. Virginie Efira’s Mia is who we spend most of the film following, but this is as much a study of collective trauma – Mia’s time at a support group offers some of the film’s most emotionally-charged moments. The film is also careful not to glorify the attack itself, showing little of the bloodshed and giving no time to the attackers and their motive.
Both of these superb films were part of the programme at 2022’s Cannes Film Festival, and were equally deserving of inclusion there. They are superb and powerful films, both thought-provoking in their own way, and a reminder of the treasures that can be found in world cinema. As Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bong Joon Ho famously said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.
MOTHER AND SON and PARIS MEMORIES are available now from Picturehouse Entertainment