Thesp Sandrine Bonnaire makes a touching, educational helming debut with “Her Name Is Sabine,” a thoughtful look at her younger sister, whose autism-related behavioral difficulties went undiagnosed for the better part of three decades. Deeply human docu consists of snippets from Sandrine’s 20 years worth of home movies, augmented by footage lensed for this project at the special residence where Sabine now lives after a disastrous five-year detour to a mental institution. Docu will engage TV viewers worldwide and is a fine tool for discussing the toll on loving families when a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment are withheld or unavailable.
Although the considerable accomplishments of Gaul’s universal health coverage are on display in two other Cannes selections, Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Bonnaire highlights the needless ravages brought on by a shortage of appropriate treatment centers for citizens with autism and other independence-thwarting conditions. In Sabine’s case, her previously vivacious personality was almost completely crushed.
The contrast between slightly “different” Sabine as an adolescent and young woman when she was trim, attractive and functional enough to take a trip to New York with her big sis or play spirited classical tunes on the piano, and her demeanor after being confined to a series of mental wards couldn’t be more eloquent. The once lively Sabine is 70 pounds heavier, needs constant help and reassurance and has lost most of the joie de vivre she exuded when her siblings were able to give her regular attention.
Docu is intimate but never transgressive, informative but never clinical. Bonnaire has made a powerful statement about the limits of love in the face of chronic debilitating illness and the crucial need for more centers where the patient, supportive staff seen here can give developmentally hampered residents the care they require.