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Film review: A Woman’s Life

A romance turned sour

A critical eye on the latest ciné releases

A Woman’s Life
Dir: Stéphane Brizé; 119 mins

The director of this stylish, sad and moving period-piece adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s first book had previously examined the tribulations of a man slowly going under, in the deeply affecting Measure of a Man starring Vincent Lindon as a luckless, downbeat supermarket security guard. In turning to a tale of a betrayed woman, he switches the focus to a woman’s plight, and yet the over-riding theme is similar – both characters are powerless in the face of others’ actions, through no fault of their own.

In the latter it is very much a man’s world slowly suffocating the protagonist. The titular ‘woman’ is Baroness Jeanne Le Perthuis des Vauds, a minor noblewoman played by Judith Chemla. Her rose-tinted expectations of dreamy romance and subsequent marriage to a handsome Viscount, Julien, turn sour as dark secrets about her husband emerge. The changing seasons evoke her darkening circumstance (even her clothes become more sombre as despair deepens) and other betrayals follow, along with yet deeper pain. It sounds depressing for the viewer, but this serious, literate film amply rewards those who see truth in one character’s declaration: “Life is never as good or as bad as you think.”

Also out: The Guardians 1915, and with menfolk away on the front line, women run a family farm. Expect sowing, reaping and romance...

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