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Suzanne (3 stars)

Katell Quillevere's French drama lacks the intimacy its title suggests

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Suzanne

We first meet Suzanne as a bubbly child, living with her father and younger sister in a motherless but loving blue-collar household. A rebellious adolescence brings problems, however, and Suzanne's life quickly spins off the rails, to the perpetual sorrow and frustration of her relatives. Intense performances and handsome cinematography call to mind the work of Jacques Audiard and the Dardenne brothers, but what's missing here is those filmmakers' instincts for narrative tension and deep character engagement: by skittering too quickly through its protagonist's life, Katell Quillevere's film fails to deliver the intimacy that its title seems to promise. We learn a lot about what befalls Suzanne (played as an adult by Sara Forestier), but who she really is and what makes her tick all remains oddly distant.

The film thus feels more like a succession of nicely-mounted, sensitively-played, not very connected scenes than a fully-realised narrative; it just jumps forward too frequently and fast to give its story time to breathe or its viewer sufficient opportunity to engage. In fact, the audience is constantly kept on the back foot, with massive plot developments suddenly announced as having happened offscreen. Meanwhile the film's unwillingness to closely examine Suzanne's catastrophic life decisions means that she remains critically unsympathetic, and the girl-adrift story risks film-schooly cliché.

Her real motivation unexamined, Suzanne seems to abandon her child for the same reason that she stands up in a moving convertible with the wind in her hair and the sun on her face: because it's aesthetically appropriate to this kind of film. High production values and a skilled cast do make for a quality package, however, and the film boasts some beautiful sequences – it's particularly good on the fraught, loving relationship between the two sisters, with Adele Haenel particularly impressive as the long-suffering younger sibling, Maria.

Limited release from Fri 14 Mar.

Suzanne (2013) - Trailer English Subs

Suzanne

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • France
  • 90 min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Katell Quillévéré
  • Cast: Sara Forestier, François Damiens, Adèle Haenel
  • UK release: 14 March 2014

A quarter century in the life of Suzanne, from her childhood in a motherless but loving blue-collar household to her troubled adulthood. Quillevere's film tells us a lot about what befalls the title character, but who she is remains oddly distant; it jumps forward too fast and frequently to give its story time to breathe.

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