It's a Guy Thing

The Truth

A movie review by Asher Luberto

I can’t imagine anyone who saw Shoplifters – the most rich and satisfying of recent family dramas – wanting to skip The Truth. Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of those artists who just can’t miss. His latest, which he loosely adapted from Ken Liu’s “Memories of My Mother,” centers on Fabienne (Catherine Denevue), a French film star who has just published her memoir, “The Truth.” There isn’t much truth to it, though. And its mensonges open old family wounds.

In this quietly moving tale of human connection, Kore-eda asks us to question the truth. He calls on us to rethink its very nature, its limits, how it varies from person to person. What is true for Fabienne may not be true for her daughter, Lumir (Julliette Binoche), who we meet entering mom’s garden with her actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their adorable daughter, Charlotte (Clementine Grenier). Approaching the villa, Charlotte likens it to a castle. “Yes, even though there’s a prison just behind it,” Lumir responds. We never see the prison behind, only the one inside.

When they enter the house, Fabienne is ordering her husband and butler around like slaves. This causes the butler to walk out, which gives Lumir a reason to stick around longer than a of couple days. She’s okay with running errands for Fabienne. Driving mom to the set of her new movie, a sci-fi drama that just so happens to be about an estranged mother-daughter, is no biggie. However, tensions rise when Lumir reads “The Truth,” a memoir that paints Fabienne as a caring mother, when in fact she was never around. At least, that’s the way Lumir remembers it.

One of the film’s many pleasures is watching Lumir and Fabienne sort out old differences. Like many Kore-eda movies, The Truth is about healing and reconciliation, and how important those traits are in a family setting. Fabienne doesn’t make forgiveness easy. She takes out her frustrations with being a has-been on Lumir and Hank, calling Hank’s acting “hack work” after a few too many glasses of wine. Yet Kore-eda finds the good in Fabienne. He knows that to heal old wounds he must first expose them, and he gives Fabienne a rewarding character arc.

Most of all, it’s a treat to watch Denevue, Binoche and Hawke share the screen. They play off each other gracefully, honestly, unselfconsciously. The film around them never upstages their performances; instead, it’s all as gentle as the breezes that waft through Fabienne’s garden. While juxtaposing nature with human emotions isn’t a new tactic (Kore-eda has been using nature as a metaphor since his 1995 debut Maborosi), it takes on a different role here. It’s always Spring in France. The weather never changes and the possibility for bloom is constant. The truth, Kore-eda reasons, is that everyone blooms eventually. No one – not even Fabienne – can hide in their shell forever.