Thursday, May 01, 2014

“For A Woman”– Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we saw the French drama, “For A Woman”, written and directed by Diane Kurys.


When a woman’s mother dies, she researches her parents’ past – but once she learns of their dark secrets, how will this change her relationship with her family?


When Anne (Sylvie Testud) learns that her mother has finally passed away, she and her older sister Tania (Julie Ferrier) rush to their father’s side. Although their parents have not been together for quite some time, they nevertheless wanted to comfort their surviving parent. The sisters begin to look through their mother’s mementos partly to choose how she’ll be buried and partly to divide the remaining items between them. This gives the inquisitive Anne further opportunity to research her parents’ history before either child was born. Between finding photographs, jewelry and correspondence, Anne begins to assemble a more detailed explanation.

Michel (Benoît Magimel) and Lena (Mélanie Thierry) were Russian Jews who met at the camp where they were being held during World War II; due to a connection Michel had with a supervising officer at the camp, he was able to secure his release. He informed Lena of this and offered to have her join him on the condition she would marry him upon being granted freedom; reluctantly, she agreed, so Michel was able to convince the officer to release both him and his “fiancée”. Settling in Lyon, France, they wed and Michel’s affiliation with the Communist party help them to obtain an apartment, a job and eventually, French citizenship. With Michel working as the proprietor of a haberdashery, he and Lena soon give birth to their first child, Tania.

Eventually, Michel is found by his long-lost younger brother, Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle), whom he thought had died during the war. Jean is very mysterious about his background and how he was able to track down his brother, causing both Michel and Lena to grow increasingly suspicious. Nevertheless, they let Jean stay at their apartment. Unknown to Michel, Jean and Lena wind up developing an attraction to each other; later, Michel’s suspicions about Jean’s recent history become realized when the police question Michel about his brother, implicating him in a murder. Once Michel learns of Jean’s affair with Lena, will he end up turning in his brother to the police in order to save his family?


A romantic story sure to attract women, it may be somewhat of a difficult sell to a male audience (unless, of course, wives/girlfriends wind up forcing their men to go with them). In any event, “For A Woman” didn’t really have much to keep my attention – or maybe there was too much. The story itself is a rather complicated one and despite some rather skillful efforts by writer/director Diane Kurys to tie everything together by the end, you really have to have a substantial emotional investment in the story to hang in there long enough for the payoff. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the patience to stay with it – which is too bad because it was an interesting twist that came at the end.

The movie tries to take on too much in that it’s telling the backstory of the woman’s parents, then goes on to tell the tale of her relationship with her father after learning the truth about her family. It’s really two films compressed into one; if you separate them, either probably could’ve been a sufficient story on its own. Also, it was not so much a story about love but more about the absence of love: Lena did not love Michel and it could be argued that ultimately, neither Lena, Michel nor his brother wound up having anyone to love or love them. It is a depressing but suspenseful story, but which is the subplot: the love story or the suspense story? Therein lies the problem.

Prior to the screening, Diane Kurys, the writer/director of “For A Woman”, was interviewed by our instructor. Kurys said that the story is very personal as it’s partly based on her own family, but a fictionalized version. Regarding her background, she explained that France has had a long and difficult history with Jewish people, which exists to this day; of World War II, her parents told her that the French weren’t pro-Jewish so much as they were anti-Nazi. As far as her professional background, Kurys shared with us that she started out as an actress, but later had an opportunity to direct a film; once she did that, she found that was her true passion and stuck with directing thereafter.

  For a Woman (2013) on IMDb


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