Review: ‘Her Name Is Sabine’

Deeply human docu consists of snippets from 20 years worth of home movies.

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.

Her Name Is Sabine



A Mosaique Films presentation of a Mosaique Films production with support from the Poitou-Charentes Region, CNC, Procirep and participation of France 3, TSR and RTBF. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Thomas Schmitt. Directed by Sandrine Bonnaire. Written by Bonnaire, Catherine Cabrol.


Camera (color, DV), Bonnaire, Cabrol; editor, Svetlana Vaynblat; music, Nicola Piovani, Jefferson Lembeye, Walter N'Guyen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 24, 2007. Running time: 85 MIN.


Sabine Bonnaire, Sandrine Bonnaire.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety