To Hirokazu Kore-eda, family means everything. With each delicate film added onto his ever growing filmography, each of his stories, even some of his more non-traditional genre fare, have something to do with relationship drama and the connections where family comes into play. These elements are always endearing, mainly due to Kore-eda’s sensitive touch. Already proving himself as a modern master of contemporary international cinema, his work always manages to tug the heartstrings, even among stories about murder plots and inflatable sex dolls. His view on the world is pure and unfiltered; where he demonstrates both the cruelty and heartfelt binds between loved ones. With The Truth, Kore-eda’s first non-native language feature, none of the aforementioned trends are thankfully left out. For fans of grounded character studies, and intimate on-screen human connections, The Truth may just be something that’s right up your alley.
Presenting itself as a more timid and authentic version of Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, the framing device and inciting conflict strangely feels a bit familiar. Quarrels between fictional family members can often times either make or break your perspective on a character’s relationship; depending entirely on the subject of discourse and conversations between said characters. The Truth largely covers some very recognizable territory; with childhood, the reminiscence of memory, growth, age, and the impending thought of one’s eventual demise being all included. These themes are handled with gentle care however, like a nurse cooing a baby into a somnolent slumber. It’s more mumble-core than situational, where the leads Lumir and Fabienne (portrayed by Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve) go through numerous “midlife crises” within it’s relatively short run-time. Everything is brisk and light, where it’s impossible to take sides, when the characters are handling their drama civilly and responsibly, to the best of their individual abilities.
The real downside to the resounding conflicts, is more so how rushed and often times forced it all felt. The time-span where all the events are taking place, just feels way too short and slight for what the material actually needed. There’s plenty of engrossing elements presented here, where Deneuve and Binoche duke it out with pleasant banter between mother and daughter. It’s just that characters such as Hank (played by the wickedly wonderful Ethan Hawke) barely have any relevance to the drama at hand. He’s simply there as a supporting device for Lumir; while also being a genuinely admirable comic-relief on the side.
Execution is key, as with most films. With The Truth, while it’s ideas are in place and intact, with the actors giving their heart and soul to what’s essentially a career-defining change of pace for Kore-eda; there was just not enough time to explore these marvelous characters, and their internal family dynamics. It’s an adorable little film, that feels like a gentle warm-knit blanket. Even if the quality of the material isn’t the greatest, you still feel cozy, wrapped up and relaxed, with Kore-eda’s vision.
The Truth screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. IFC Films will release the film in the coming months