Truth, The (2019)

Despite its seemingly modest if meta-cinematic setup, Kore-eda’s first film made in the West with big stars reveals layers of subtlety and emotions that creep up genteelly to the surface.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
2019 | France/Japan | Drama | 106 mins | 1.85:1 | French & English
PG (passed clean) for thematic and suggestive elements, and for smoking and brief language

Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke
Plot: A stormy reunion between a daughter and her actress mother, Catherine, against the backdrop of Catherine’s latest role in a sci-fi picture.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: Wild Bunch (SG: Clover Films, Golden Village Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Light
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres (The Projector)
Spoilers: No

Much has been said about Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film, The Truth, with some suggesting that this is an inconsequential work in an otherwise extraordinary filmography. 

I beg to differ; it’s certainly not one of his best, but it is a pretty good film to me.  In fact, I found it a tad more rewarding than his storied Cannes Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters (2018). 

The Truth is not just the Japanese master’s first film made in the West (a sort of foreign language picture to him), but his most star-studded one to date—featuring such screen goddesses as Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, who play mother and daughter respectively. 

Ethan Hawke, who channels some Linklater vibes here, rounds up the trio as husband to Binoche’s character.  Deneuve and Binoche particularly deliver solid if understated work, as they capture the affect with layers of subtlety. 

Kore-eda envisions The Truth to be more of a drama about family with some skeletons in the closet.  But his seemingly modest setup is elevated by meta-cinematic allusions—Denueve’s character is a renowned actress, while Binoche’s is a scriptwriter—that bring their troubled central relationship to the fore. 

Memories conflate with present emotions, as these feelings creep up genteelly to the surface. It’s a light-hearted film inasmuch as it is pleasant to watch the narrative unfold.  There’s nothing too heavy; as such some might feel that Kore-eda hasn’t done enough to throw his characters into the deep end.  But he has done a lot of those already in his career. 

The Truth is a welcome change in setting and language, but perhaps more interestingly, he allows his characters to find depth and meaning naturally on their own terms even if they struggle to do so.

Grade: B+


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