The misremembered past sneaks through the excellent The Truth like a devious shadow, subtly subverting every scene, creating a gently absurdist take on family dynamics. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film, the follow up to his 2018’s award guzzling Shoplifters, is an elegantly humorous portrait of the days in the life of Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve). 

Kore-eda’s English Language debut follows Fabienne, an acclaimed, ageing actress with a cosmological divaness; about to release her memoirs, almost sardonically called the eponymous ‘La Verité.’ Her screen-writer daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) arrives from New York with her American actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), for the launch of the book. Lumir had been expecting to read the book before it’s publication, only to find the finished text to be replete with a complete fictionalization of her childhood – as Fabienne presents herself as a doting mother when it is clear she was anything but.

Immediately it becomes apparent that The Truth’s title is a deadpan joke; Kore-eda’s narrative offers the audience a scattered history of Fabienne and her family through a mesh of half-truths, misremembered moments and plain old lies. At the same time as releasing her memoir, Fabienne is acting in a fictional film called Memories of My Mother, in which a character interacts with herself at various points in her life. As Fabienne begins to weave the emotions of her relationship and reunion with Lumir and with the film’s main character Manon (Manon Clavel) – who reminds both of them of Sarah, Fabienne’s best friend and actress whose own memory haunts The Truth – into her performance in this fictional film, Kore-eda showcases how easily objectivity can be folded in on itself, as reality bends to the will of ephemeral memory. 

The film is powered by two wonderfully distinct performances from the titans of European cinema – Deneuve and Binoche. Deneuve’s Fabienne is a joyfully irreverent monster; a harsh-tongued example of the perils of extreme indulgence, Deneuve sells the role magnificently – creating three-dimensions from potential caricature. Binoche is equally excellent as Lumir – whose conflicted feelings towards her mother range from pure awe to trauma are played with a nuanced panache. Kore-eda’s direction is smart, using an expressive but ultimately naturalistic style which allows the narrative to spiral off into ever greater degrees of playfully ambiguous falsehoods. Éric Gautier’s cinematography is as elegant as Fabienne herself – creating a deep, luxurious palette of sensual autumnal greens and bold, glacial blues.   

The Truth is a delightfully intricate portrayal of how every family’s present is poised between past and future and that a person’s memory is never the perfect arbiter for discerning how you came to form such relationships. Kore-eda allows Deneuve and Binoche to take centre stage and bring a deep but always tongue-in-cheek complexity to their warring mother-daughter connection. This is handsomely made, perfectly acted, witty addition to Kore-eda’s beguiling oeuvre.

The Truth is available to stream on Mubi.

4 Stars

Image Credit: TheMovieDB

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