This French film opens with a dedication: To Our Boundaries. This statement says it all. Starring French favorite Isabelle Huppert as Pascale opposite Thierry (Jérémie Renier), as her son, and François (Yannick Renier), his twin brother (real-life brothers).
As the first scene rolls, you know the kind of trouble you're in for. Pascale is admiring herself in her new lingerie in front of the mirror. She calls her son François over to provide his assessment of what he thinks. It's a confusing viewer moment. It seemed out of line that a mother would ask her teenage son; what you are watching is in opposition to your belief, yet on-screen so normal for that situation that you can't help wonder if it's you and not the movie. Then, Thierry shows up and makes a remark that the lingerie looks nice if she's trying to look like whore. At that moment, I am jolted out of the twisted reality (it's them, not me). The rest of the movie follows similarly. Majority of the scenes are shot during meals.
I'm unclear about the age the boys are supposed to be. In real life, one is in 25 and the other is 31 and they look it, so when she refers to the 15 years she's been living for them, it's a moment of shock. The beauty is that they are man-boys and their brawn and strength lend themselves well to the story.
Pascale and the boys' father had a bitter divorce. The fallout is still evident and the brutal arguing is never shielded from the boys, who are clearly the pawns in the acrimony. The deeper conflict begins when Pascale wants to sell the house, move away and open a B&B with Jan (Kris Cuppens), her Flemish neighbor and clandestine boyfriend. Problem being not only is this the twin's childhood home, but it was left to them, not Pascale in the divorce. Thierry is outraged and a battle begins. The only sane character is Jan. He is the only one able to extricate himself from her web. I found those scenes rewarding and validating from the audience perspective.
I've seen Huppert in many movies. She is the queen of cold. I'm not sure I can name another actress who captures it quite the same severe way. This can be off-putting, but she's so effective. This cast is assembled well so that when the all-out war breaks out, it believably divides the family. It's especially aggressive between the two boys, which leads to the tragic ending.
Music is discernibly missing from the film, except for the final scene, when the mad, chaotic violining is fitting. Not for the weak-hearted.
Director: Joachim LaFosse
Country: France or Belgium (subtitles were FAST)
Minutes: 101 minutes