At the beginning of THERESE DESQUEYROUX there’s a sense that sun drenched French Countryside is the setting for a blossoming friendship/relationship between two young heiresses Therese and Anne. The 1920s period setting foreshadows some tantalising drama, of unrequited love in an indecent time. There’s an infectious joy in their interaction, an implied symbiosis in their existence, which unfortunately, is swiftly snuffed out. Fast-forward from hopeful adolescence into the drab shackles of adulthood and a tragically miscast Audrey Tatou playing a now formative Therese, engaged to Anne’s brother Bernard (Gilles Lellouche).
This is the union of two ‘Pine’ families that strengthens their place in high society. After Tatou’s Therese foolishly (both in concept and scripting) thinks that her marriage will quiet the progressive feminist ideas in her head (because woman in this period shouldn’t have those) we (the audience) are forced to endure her fulfilling the commitments of her betrothal and the nonsensical machinations of her protesting this decision.
As harsh as it may be to say, Tatou does not have the youthful luminescence that she once exuded (circa Amelie). She’s a weathered woman that immediately jolts you away from you believing she could be a teen. Her character Therese once adventurous and empathetic (glimpsed in the portrayal of her in youth) is now essentially a emotionless drone living out the expectations of her role as wife and facilitator of this union. If screenwriter/director Claude Miller was attempting to evoke the inner turmoil of Therese and show that she was a woman of boundless potential, imprisoned by the constraints of the time – then this film is a complete failure. Firstly, Therese demonstrates her conniving nature by pushing Anne’s (Anais Demoustier) love interest away; and in the most extreme form of protest attempts to ‘poison’ her way out of the relationship. All along this laborious period film, you’re waiting to see exactly what the heroine’s raging against – and for this reviewer – she’s raging against the contentment of those who she’s meant to care for and her own perception.
THERESE DESQUEYROUX is an early feminist suffrage text, except instead of the heroine suffering it’s the audience.