REVIEW: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s drama THE TRUTH reveals that even behind layers of artifice and resentment, a family can find itself again anew.


Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve commands the screen in this drama of family and relationships and allowing your walls to come down so you don’t lose them.

In THE TRUTH, acclaimed Japanese writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda makes his debut away from directing films themed around his native country in this tale of a legendary working actress named Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve), hailed in her home country of France, even winning a Cesare, the French Oscar, throughout her fabled career. She has recently published her personal biography, a memoir she has entitled Verite (The Truth). To mark the occasion, her estranged screenwriter daughter, Lumir (Juliette Binoche), comes to visit her in her villa in the 14th Arrondissement in Paris with her actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier) in tow. Lumir is angry her mother hasn’t shared a manuscript of her memoirs with her prior to publishing which she had promised she would. Upon reading it, she sees why, Fabienne has liberally whitewashed her past, depicting her relationship with a young Lumir as an idealized one of a loving mother and an adoring daughter. Fabienne’s loyal assistant Luc (Alain Libolt), taken aback at being completely excised of any importance of his role in Fabienne’s life due to his complete exclusion in her memoirs decides to leave and places Lumir to handle her mother’s affairs moving forward. This proves difficult for her, as the idealized relationship Lumir shared as a child was with a younger actress named Sarah, a woman whom Fabienne cheated out of the role that made her career. Moreover, Fabienne’s demanding and cool personality is especially attuned as she is starring a small budgeted indie science fiction drama for the chance to work with an up and coming actress named Manon (Manon Clavel) who seems to be the spitting image of Sarah and whose performance dredges up uncomfortable truths for both Fabienne and Lumir, not the least of which is the family life Lumir seems to present isn’t ideal either, as Hank is a struggling alcoholic with a career on the decline.

Much has been made of Kore-eda’s first time working outside of Japan and Japanese themes in his filmmaking oeuvre. But the themes explored here, those of estranged families and the artifice we can put up for the sake of appearance and stubbornness are universal ones that translate well to the make-believe world of film. There’s a point in the film where Fabienne and Lumir have an exchange that is a big breakthrough for them, only for Fabienne to exclaim the emotion this elicits in her is wasted when she could have put it into a scene in the film. Despite the strong performances from Binoche and Hawke, the film is Deneuve’s. Her Fabienne has crafted a life for herself despite sorrow and obstacles and she won’t budge from what she knows because she has struggled in inner sorrow to reach where she is and her unapologetic bluntness is the shield she wields to keep that from being taken from her. Binoche and Deneuve have a great natural chemistry and their interactions and relationship feel real and multifaceted. This is a large part of why the film works, not unlike a film like Before Sunset. The naturalistic and improvisational feel of characters that feel lived in is compelling and engaging for the viewer and it is a credit to Kore-eda’s writing and direction that such a personal story feels bigger than it is.

Overall, THE TRUTH is an exploration of the complex dynamics found in an estranged relationship and the journey it can be to come to a mutual understanding to move beyond that sadness and try to come together anew. It is a story that feels real, with little moments of character and realness that might be lost if not for the capable work of Kore-eda. But in the end, its Deneuve’s complex character as Fabienne that keeps you watching.