Things kick off in a particularly picturesque part of France in the summer of 1922 where we meet two teenage girls, Therese and Anne, best friends frolicking in the sun and sea. There are some vaguely Sapphic undertones to their relationship, but we quickly skipped forward to 1928, and the two girls have grown up. Therese (Audrey Tautou) is marrying Anne's (Anais Demoustier) brother Bernard (Gilles Lellouche). Both Therese and Bernard are heirs to large plots of land, and their marriage is more of a benefit to their families than an act of love.
Bernard still acts like a doting husband, but Therese finds her individuality and free-spirited'ness suffocated by the buttoned-down Desqueyroux family. When Anne announces that she is in love with a local Jewish young man of no real heritage, it spurns outrage in the family, but jealousy within Therese. She decides she wants a change, and her actions bring about some drastic consequences.
It is difficult to review Therese Desqueyroux without giving too much information away, as the opening hour of the movie is not exactly packed with incident or excitement. The book that the movie is based on was told in flashback form, but director Claude Miller has changed that to make the story completely linear, so the entire film is now painfully unbalanced. The opening half is meandering but never dull; taking in a host of characters, plots and subtexts, most of which get unceremoniously dumped for the second half of the movie once the actual plot gets going.
Tautou does a great job of making her character sympathetic and relatable, especially considering that Therese is a mostly horrible person at her core; ignoring her crying child and often fantasizing about suicide. Lellouche does equally well as her husband, a man whose simplistic views on life may not be as calm, collected and genuine as he would have you believe.
By filling the movie with great actors and beautiful vistas, Miller does a good job of distracting you from just how little is happening on screen. The movie, like Tautou, is gorgeous and full of a certain je ne sais quoi. However, it's also like her character Therese, stifled and perhaps too subtle to generate much interest.
Review by Rory Cashin | 11:35 | Monday 27th May 2013 | Movie Review