The Last Days of Chez Nous | Chicago Reader

The Last Days of Chez Nous

Even if the storytelling and visual style aren't as compelling as the characters, this woman-oriented 1992 feature by Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, High Tide), working here with novelist and screenwriter Helen Garner, is so alive with felt and observed experience and subtle familial interaction that you may not care. The story concerns a group of people living in a ramshackle house in Sydney, among them a middle-aged novelist (Lisa Harrow), her teenage daughter (Miranda Otto), her French husband (Bruno Ganz), her younger sister (An Angel at My Table's Kerry Fox), and a young male boarder (Kiri Paramore); the plot consists largely of what ensues when the sister has an abortion and then becomes involved with her brother-in-law. The performances are so powerful and persuasive—especially those of Harrow, Ganz, and Bill Hunter, who plays the novelist's father—that you may periodically forget they're performances; these are complex characters you remember, not actors' turns you're asked to admire.

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