Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
There is something about French cinema that, I guess since I don’t live in France, makes the topics and characters just seem so refreshing to watch. Like a cleanse to your palate, for a lack of a better term. Yet, while they may present new and different stories, that doesn’t mean they nail it each and every time.
Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) | Antoine (Vincent Cassel) | Suzanne (Léa Seydoux) | Catherine (Marion Cotillard) | The Mother (Nathalie Baye)
Characters & Storyline
After 12 years of communicating through postcards, though seemingly only for birthdays, holidays, and congratulating big time moments, Louis returns home in the flesh. It isn’t clear why but at 34, with something weighing on his mind, and with his mother hinting he was a homosexual and a flashback featuring him kissing a long-haired young man, you can only expect the worse. Yet, on this trip where it seemed he was going to tell everyone, something gets in the way. Often times it is Antoine who is very high strong and can’t get over how his brother left and thinks postcards suffice for communication. Yet, it just not being the right time is the problem as well. Leaving you to wonder if he may just have to tell one or two and let that be it, drop the information during a heated conversation, or just keep waiting for the perfect moment. Assuming he will have the time to hold on for one.
We think silent people are good listeners. But I shut up so people leave me alone.
— It’s Only The End of the World
Despite the 12 year absence, you can tell in each one on one moment Louis has with his older brother Antoine, Antoine’s wife Catherine, his little sister Suzanne, or his mother, how much his absence has affected them. His little sister, who hasn’t seen him since before she was a teenager, she idolizes him. He is this great playwright and she has news articles about him on her wall and keeps the postcards she sent to him in a box under her bed. When it comes to the mother, her interactions show just a gratefulness for him being around. She wants to gossip, have the type of conversations and information which can’t fit on a postcard, and is just happy her son is in her presence.
As for Catherine and Antoine though, things are complicated. Catherine clearly would like to get to know her brother in law, have him get to know her, but Antoine impedes any progress. In fact, Antoine’s feelings of abandonment seem to cloud the entire return of Louis. Leading to a series of rash and cruel moments in which it seems Antoine is just unable to handle the idea of anyone getting close to Louis. If only because, he has seemingly discarded him from his mind and doesn’t wish to hear or have reason to speak about him when he inevitably leaves them all behind.
On The Fence
There Is Some Information Missing
While I’m fine wondering if someone may have been evil or good, wondering who did a certain thing or if someone died or was real, when it comes to movies, I want details. Especially for movies like these since there aren’t any chances for sequels so it makes it where whatever isn’t said won’t likely be answered. Though, if there are answers, you almost feel like they were crafted due to pressure than it being part of the story.
Just to bring up some examples of things unfortunately left to interpretation: We aren’t sure what reason Louis left, why he is dying, and also what happened to his father, Louis Sr. From the anecdotes we are given, it seems Louis Jr. is a homosexual, that Louis Sr., while at times a loving father, could very well be the kind of man Antoine seems to be, and that what maybe leading to Louis’ death could be AIDS. Something only thought of due to stereotypes as well as Antoine noting that one of Louis’ friends, who is the same age, died of cancer. Though, with Antoine being someone who seems to hate when people force him to listen, who knows if he just came up with this or it is factually true. It’s all left to interpretation.
I realize I may not pay as close attention as I think and could have missed something, yet, as I prepped to figure out who played the actors I didn’t know, I came across a review. One which notes that this was inspired by a play and not meant to be your usual mainstream or Hollywood story. So perhaps the lack of information and confirmation was supposed to allow for interpretation? For really, who brings up all the old stuff that was dead and buried and decides to blurt out why you’re dying when things are so contentious? Right?
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
While you recognize the feelings of abandonment and Suzanne longing to get to know her brother, as well as the mother wanting time with her son, you don’t feel said emotions. There is some disconnect, possibly due to lack of details, which keeps you as an outsider. Thus leading to the Mixed (Home Viewing) label for while the drama is ripe and looks good, there is no taste and what you consume leaves you with a feeling of indifference.