A Woman's Life

119 minutes 2016

Guy de Maupassant's first novel, about a trusting French noblewoman who follows her husband and then her grown son into financial ruin, gets a slow, sensual, impressionistic treatment from director Stéphane Brizé (The Measure of a Man, Not Here to Be Loved). His domestic scenes are steeped in the details of 19th-century life—the planting of a garden, the playing of a board game—and the soundtrack sizzles and snaps with the sound of wood-burning fires. The protagonist (Judith Chemla) is a bourgeois tragic heroine, anticipating Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina but without even their limited agency; suffering the sexual infidelities of her smooth-talking husband (Swann Arlaud) and the self-pitying tirades of her spoiled son (Finnegan Oldfield), she seems to wilt as the years pass. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Yolande Moreau. In French with subtitles.

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