Claude Miller’s elegant last film, completed shortly before he passed away, is a thought-provoking drama based on a real-life incident.
Thérèse Desqueyroux takes place at the end of the 1920s not far from Bordeaux. Two of the richest families in the area are united when Thérèse Larroque (Audrey Tautou) marries Bernard Desqueyroux (Gilles Lellouche), the brother of her best friend, Anne (Anaïs Demoustier, Living On Love Alone, JDIFF 2011). Thérèse, bright and intelligent but a restless introvert, looks forward to the marriage as a way of achieving the peace of mind she badly needs. But soon enough she becomes pregnant to a husband she likes less and less with every passing day, and once Bernard starts taking arsenic drops for an imaginary ailment, she can’t resist the temptation to increase the doses of his medication beyond the doctor’s prescriptions.
A latter-day Madame Bovary, rebelling against the rules of her class and its strict Catholic morality, Thérèse keeps the mystery behind her motivations intact. If there is a villain in this piece, it is the bourgeois family institution, with its set of values putting property and pretence above everything else, allowing no one to escape its iron clasp.
Dan Fainaru, Screen International