DVD review: Thérèse Desqueyroux is a suffocating and dreadfully dull adaptation of François Mauriac’s novel

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I’ve never been particularly impressed with Audrey Tautou and this suffocating and miserable French drama hasn’t exactly changed my opinion of her.

The film is an adaptation of François Mauriac’s popular 1927 novel (which I must confess I have not read) and tells the story of a woman who marries for convenience and money, joining two families together who own large pine tree forests.

There are heavy echoes of Madame Bovary about the narrative which some people may enjoy spotting. The directing, by the late Claude Miller, lacks drive and flare and Tautou’s performance has the power to bore the most forgiving viewer to fits of yawning.

It’s all filmed in a very slow, respectful, unimaginative way. Everything is tight and dreary and cold. Of course, I’m sure this was, to some extent, the desired effect, but there’s understated and then there’s just plain boring. I fear this movie falls into the latter camp.

There’s one standout scene that occurs when our protagonist’s younger sister falls in love with a gorgeous young man and sends her a photograph of him. Instead of being happy for her sister, she burns the photograph. Her jealousy at her sibling’s success in finding a romance that is fresh, sensual and exciting, as opposed to her stifling marriage, is very well evoked.

During this age of the explosive blockbuster and movies that presume their audience have the attention span of a 5 year old, it can be refreshing to see a film that takes its time and doesn’t hurry everything along. But there is a fine line between keeping things controlled and making them unbearably restrained – a line which this movie treads over a little too often.

A note on the disc: Sadly, a Blu-ray was not available to review, but the DVD copy boasts a superb picture. The sound quality is good, but the real star of the show is the video transfer. Though restricted by the standard definition limitations of the DVD, this is still a marvellous presentation, and blown-up large on a big HD TV, upscaled using a Blu-ray disc drive, the results are even more pleasing.

Film: ★★☆☆☆  Disc: ★★★★☆

Thérèse Desqueyroux (2012), directed by Claude Miller, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD by Artificial Eye, Certificate 12. Watch the trailer below:

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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