The Truth (‘La Vérité’)

DRAMA; 1hr 47min (French with subtitles, some English)

STARRING: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke

Profile piece: Deneuve (left) and Binoche

If all reality is fundamentally subjective, then truth, by definition, is a matter of individual perception. French actress and grande dame Fabienne (Deneuve, making mischief in incomparable style) and her wary screenwriter daughter, Lumir (Binoche), have very different relationships with reality. “I’m an actress, I won’t tell the naked truth,” Fabienne retorts when Fabienne questions the accuracy of her new memoir. “It’s not that interesting.”


Visiting her childhood Paris home from her New York base with her battling actor husband, Hank (Hawke), and their young daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier), Lumir finds her mother’s self-absorption unchanged: Fabienne is a fading star with the imperious spirit of a diva. And when her courtly assistant of 40 years (Alain Libolt) resigns, offended that Fabienne has disregarded him in her factually debatable book, Lumir is lumbered with his thankless job.


Fabienne is shooting a sci-fi film with a hot young lead actress (Manon Clavel) whom she resents. The plot, which centres on a frequently absent, ageless mother and her problematic relationship with her daughter, is especially resonant for Lumir. Its filming evokes memories of Fabienne’s cavalier treatment of both herself and a late friend and rival actress whom Lumir revered. Fabienne, by contrast, is roundly unrepentant of her behaviour—although with a born performer, you never do know. Like memories, they can be fickle and elusive creatures.


In laying bare the paradox of arrogance and insecurity in Fabienne, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) also unveils the power of her and Lumir’s pervasive past, whose disappointments Lumir has come home to face. A film of such minimal fanfare you’d swear a Frenchman had made it, Truth is about the myriad acts of forgiveness that constitute a family. Stagy showdowns have their heat-seeking, Hollywood place, but sometimes the smallest of unspoken gestures (a head resting on a shoulder; a face in unguarded repose) can carry the most searching weight.