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With: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, Clémentine Grenier, Manon Clavel, Jackie Berroyer, Ludivine Sagnier, Alain Libolt
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda, partly based on a short story by Ken Liu
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic and suggestive elements, and for smoking and brief language
Running Time: 106
Date: 07/03/2020

The Truth (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Demand Performance

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The latest from acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), The Truth isn't based on real life, but rather the search for truth that may be attempted by an artist, or, specifically, an actor.

For fans of Kore-eda, whose films include After Life, Nobody Knows, and Still Walking, The Truth will seem like a step down, a move toward the mainstream with American and French stars, but even as a minor effort, it still contains memorable moments of touching humanism.

Acting legend Catherine Deneuve plays acting legend Fabienne Dangeville, who is preparing to play an old lady in a new science fiction film, opposite a beautiful up-and-comer, Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel). She's not enthusiastic about the prospect, but a job's a job.

Meanwhile, her autobiography has been released, and to mark the occasion, Fabienne's daughter, screenwriter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), Lumir's actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke), and their small daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), come to visit.

The book, filled with omissions and fictions, ruffles many feathers, but Fabienne merely shrugs. She's not obligated to let mere readers in on her most intimate details.

Most of the movie is centered on Lumir and her mother as they clash over memories, misinformation, and missed connections.

Meanwhile, the sci-fi movie has an interesting set-up: Fabienne plays the aged daughter of the younger Manon, who is ill and has lived her life in space, not aging. So the fictional scenes being filmed have a fascinating mirror-opposite quality to the real-life scenes.

Binoche and Deneuve are exceptional together, and Deneuve has quite a few wryly hilarious line readings, including one about hand-held camerawork. But the rest of the movie around them feels as if it trails off.

Hawke, who doesn't speak French in a mostly French-speaking movie, is often left out, and doesn't have much to do other than entertain his daughter while his wife fights with her mother. Other subplots, such as one about a woman named Sarah (who is never seen), don't really connect.

However, the main thrust of The Truth is nonetheless thoughtful and gently engaging, offering ruminations on how truth that is built from memories may not be entirely factual, but is still undeniably affecting.

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