This latest French film featuring the perpetual star that is Kristin Scott Thomas is another wonderful showcase for her many talents. She is simply fabulous as Suzanne, the wife of a wealthy doctor with two teenage children, who is re-establishing her career as a physiotherapist after many years of unpaid domesticity. And we know from the off that it will not end well, hearing as we do the sound of a gunshot after she leaves her marital bed, and oblivious sleeping husband, in some obvious emotional distress.
The film is then told in flashback to six months earlier, when she begins a passionate affair with a Catalan builder whom her husband has hired to convert an outbuilding to a new physiotherapy suite for her. And doesn’t he love to remind her just how much it is costing him. He treats the builders with obvious distain, and seems to have no redeeming features at all. The surprise is not that Suzanne starts an unlikely passionate relationship with Ivan, with his run down apartment and criminal record, but that she ever saw anything vaguely attractive in her husband in the first place.
The build up to and enactment of the magnetic attraction and tender affection between Suzanne and Ivan, played by Sergi López, is beautifully and sensitively portrayed. Her nervous face, as she waits to go into his flat for the first time with a bunch of roses for him, their feelings as yet unstated but coming inexorably to boiling point, is worth a thousand words. And of course it all gets very messy.
The film deals with the dire position of women in Suzanne’s position in divorce cases financially, and of the potential of small town politics to be used for the personal ends of its key players, rather than for anything resembling democracy and justice. The reason that Suzanne can bear to walk away from the baubles and trappings of her privileged existence for a man who truly loves her is clear. But the issue of how she can bear to walk out on her two teenage children, with barely a backward glance, is skirted over, and is for me the one weak point of this otherwise moving and emotionally charged film.
But for avowed KST fans, of which I am unashamedly one, this is yet another vehicle for her talent and beauty, which deals intelligently and thoughtfully with a painful and controversial subject. Long may she reign.