Entertainment

Sophie Marceau’s assisted-suicide drama pulls its punches

It’s often said that dying at one’s own time is a dignity – but if François Ozon’s new film is to be believed, managing it is another matter. The prolific French director has returned with a welcome, juicy lead for Sophie Marceau in this clear-eyed, well-constructed drama about the emotionally and ethically draining business of arranging the assisted suicide of a relative.

It was adapted by Ozon from a 2013 memoir by Emmanuèle Bernheim, the late novelist and screenwriter who worked on a number of his screenplays, including Swimming Pool. Marceau plays Bernheim and André Dussolier’s father, André, an 85-year-old art collector who is hospitalized with a stroke at the beginning of the film.

The old man’s condition is bad enough to frighten Emmanuèle and her sister Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas): like Ozon’s camera, they fixate on the old man’s ghoulish mouth and right eyelid. But while the situation looks grim, it doesn’t appear irrevocably grim. Emmanuèle is shocked when, during a visit, her father grabs her arm and begs her three times to help him “end it as soon as possible”.

At first she investigates it just to amuse him while gently reminding him of upcoming exhibitions and other things to live for, but he only gets more determined and the plan picks up speed, resulting in a mildly suspenseful, gallows-humoured caper leads the necessary arrangements must be made in full view of her father’s caretakers. Due to the resources and time required, it is inevitably a story of privilege: “I wonder how poor people do that?” André wonders aloud, to which Emmanuèle replies with a shrug: “They are waiting to die.”

André is an old-school egomaniac and a deliberately annoying presence. Dussolier delivers his dialogue in a sublime, self-amused gasp, regularly punctuated by private giggles at the supposed weaknesses of the little people he’s unfortunate to have to deal with – and you sense he often includes his daughters in that group. As for his estranged, depressed wife, Claude (Charlotte Rampling), with her “heart of cement,” she comes up only briefly, though Rampling’s stony presence suggests a backstory of domestic malaise.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/everything-went-fine-cannes-review-exploration-ofassistedsuicide/ Sophie Marceau’s assisted-suicide drama pulls its punches

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