Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Luxembourg/Belgium/France, 2017. Red Lion Sarl, Entre Chien et Loup, MACT Productions, Proximus, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance, Fonds National de Soutien à la Production Audiovisuelle du Luxembourg, La Wallonie, Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge, Philophon. Screenplay by Maria Nimier, Laura Schroeder. Cinematography by Helene Louvart. Produced by Pol Cruchten, Sebastien Delloye, Jeanne Geiben, Sebastian Schelenz. Music by Petra Jean Phillipson. Production Design by Christina Schaffer. Costume Design by Uli Simon. Film Editing by Damien Keyeux.
Catherine (Lolita Chammah) has returned to Luxembourg after having been in Switzerland for a decade, and decides to look up her daughter Alba (Themis Pauwels) who has been raised in the meantime by Catherine’s mother Elizabeth (Isabelle Huppert, Chammah’s mother in real life as well).
The little girl isn’t happy to see her and at first shuts down any chance of reconnecting, but Elizabeth decides to make the best of the situation and, despite her strong reservations, gives her wayward daughter a shot at spending time with the disinterested Alba. Promising to take her out for a few hours, Catherine instead takes her daughter on a long drive to their family’s rustic cabin in the woods, keeping her overnight and inspiring increasingly frantic concern from Elizabeth.
Alba begins to soften towards her mother, at first forced to bond with her but eventually growing sympathetic and doing so willingly, but the warning signs that Catherine has been giving us along the way, such as her throwing her mood meds in the toilet at a rest stop halfway through their journey, begin to pile up and a concern grows for her unsuitability to take on the responsibility of motherhood that she insists she can handle.
While this sometimes poignant drama avoids a lot of the typical moments of melodrama that often feel like they are exploiting an unbalanced character for the sake of excitement (Sherrybaby is a similar plot that indulges in misery porn), there’s no escaping the fact that director Laura Schroeder hasn’t managed to put a new spin on a very old idea. While the film can never rise above its cliches, though, it at least as a director who is fair to all her characters; Huppert (who is little more than a glorified cameo) has a sharp-focused concern that is a relief from Chammah’s subtly underplayed manic desperation, but both have perspectives that are respected and treated with sympathy.