By Adam Ray Palmer
The 76th Venice Film Festival is upon us and the opening night gala of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s La Vérité (The Truth) kicked off proceedings to a packed venetian audience earlier today.
Starring in Hirokazu’s latest offering is Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke.
The Truth is Hirokazu Kore-eda’s third film in as many years following his 2017 picture, The Third Murder and his critically acclaimed 2018 movie, Shoplifters. So, in 2019, to say The Truth was hotly tipped for a similar reaction is an understatement.
The Truth follows a dysfunctional family of actors. Catherine Deneuve plays Fabienne, a mother who has chased the dream career to the detriment of her family life. Juliette Binoche plays Lumir, Fabienne’s daughter who now lives in New York as a scriptwriter with her American TV actor husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke). The movie centres on the stormy reunion between the mother and daughter as they ‘celebrate’ Fabienne’s book launch and visit the set of her latest sci-fi film.
Deneuve is a hoot in her role, with many quips throughout that make the audience chuckle. Her more tender scenes with Binoche are also crowd-pleasers but everything else in-between is far too vanilla. There’s a meaty story at the heart of this picture but we are constantly kept on the periphery.
Ethan Hawke must have said yes to this picture so he can say he’s worked with a fine director in Hirokazu Kore-eda, but in return, Hirokazu gives Hawke very little to do. A talent like Ethan needs to be given more than just a passive role, that clearly has a murky past, but we never delve into it. We spend too much time on the mother-daughter relationship without getting anywhere there until the final 20 minutes. We invest, as an audience, a lot of time in this movie and the outcome isn’t worth it.
It just seems that everything about this film, like Fabienne’s favourite tea temperature, is luke-warm. It never seems to ignite even when there seems to be the opportunity to. There’s a stellar cast, with a formidable writer/director at the helm, and yet the output is too meek and mild to be a Venice opener for me.
On the whole, The Truth falls victim to heavy dialogue, unexplored character arcs and descends into the category of being a pleasant, but unexciting offering from a usually impressive crew.
Cineroom’s rating: 2.5 stars
La Vérité is yet to receive a distribution date in the UK – certificate 12A