Another Woman’s Life, the directorial debut from Sylvie Testud (also an actress and successful author)is a somewhat erratic time-warp comedy/drama adapted from the novel by Frederique Deghelt. Driven by an interesting premise and a committed and energetic performance from audience favourite Juliette Binoche (Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Chocolat), Testud’s film overcomes some clumsy and forced execution, to be moderately charming.
The film’s prologue introduces us to Marie (Binoche), an ambitious twentysomething who applies for an entry-level job at the high finance corporation of Dimitri Speranski (Vernon Dobtcheff). On the night of her 26th birthday, Marie sleeps with Speranski’ cartoonist son, Paul (Mathieu Kassovitz, Amelie), whom she has recently fallen in love with. When she awakes the next morning she is surprised to find herself in a lavish Parisian home situated at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She is equally shocked to learn that she is now in her early 40’s, and has slept through and forgotten the last fifteen years of her life.
Marie is now immersed in a rocky marriage with Paul, who is the father to their young son. She is a powerful player in high finance, and in business with her father-in-law. She is respected, but feared, by her colleagues, and it is clear that she has been involved in an affair, the potential influence behind Paul’s recent file for divorce. Marie learns she must salvage what remains of her life – faking her way through important meetings, trying her best at motherhood, and finding a way to re-seduce her husband and re-ignite the relationship that has ended for her before it even started.
Kassovitz, I feel, is much better behind the camera (he directed La Haine in the mid 90’s) than in this bland role, but Binoche is a committed natural and her cheer and energy puts everything we love about her on show. In addition, Binoche convincingly relays Marie’s sympathetic emotional torment – her confusion and sadness when she learns about the gravity of her situation and her understandable desire to earn a second chance.
A lot of the film involves following Marie around as she tries to put all the pieces together, and understand the world she is recognized in, but mentally unfamiliar with. There is some effective light humour, but this is far from a straight up comedy. Watching Marie come to terms with social and technological changes is amusing, but the plight of her psychological breakdown and strained marriage has some emotional weight. It is a pity it isn’t more prominent. The cause for the time warp is never explained, but I think it is meant to be symbolic of how one can face the threat of losing everything they have ever loved without even realizing, or fighting for it.
Ultimately, Another Woman’s Life was disappointing, considering the attractive pairing of Kassovitz and Binoche. It addresses the importance of family, the challenging balance of career and marriage, and an individual’s opportunity to grasp a second chance and effectively turn their life around.
and a half
Andrew Buckle – follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Sydney: 5-24 March – Chauvel Cinema, Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona and Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace
Melbourne: 6-24 March – Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth and Kino Cinemas
Canberra: 7-26 March – Palace Electric Cinema
Brisbane: 14 March – 4 April – Palace Barracks Cinemas and Palace Centro Cinemas
Adelaide: 19 March – 7 April – Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas
Perth: 19 March – 7 April – Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and Windsor Cinema