A keenly played, skillfully lensed two-hander between mother and daughter pianists, “On the Tips of Her Fingers” taps into a rich vein of sacrifice, jealousy and conflict only to play out to diminishing returns after a key scene halfway. D.P.-turned-helmer Yves Angelo fares better than usual, establishing a promising mood in which betrayal, nervous collapse or worse seem to be right around the corner, but matters become more heavy-handed than necessary. However, performances couldn’t be better, and some fest play is indicated.
Bits of story are doled out piecemeal to suspenseful effect. In a small town, divorced Juliette (Marina Hands) and teen daughter Julie (Anne-Sophie Latour), live in a sparsely furnished stone house that’s dominated by a grand piano. Juliette, who dreamed of being a concert pianist, gives lessons and has devoted her entire life to grooming her only child as a classical musician.
Julie doesn’t appear to attend school, has no friends and does little except remain inside and practice, seemingly relishing the constant, unforgiving discipline of the keyboard. Playing the piano — which she does exceedingly well — makes her happy. So happy, in fact, that she can take in stride the signs that her mom’s mental health is borderline.
Juliette is having a hard time coping with her daughter’s ever-blossoming talent. Judiciously placed flashbacks indicate the extent to which Juliette was responsible for Julie’s very survival — the girl’s birth was dangerously premature — but pic is less in control of the way in which Juliette’s possessiveness morphs into something creepier and dramatically problematic.
Looking every inch mother and daughter, lead duo embodies a symbiosis that’s simultaneously nourishing yet unhealthy. The tyranny of jealousy in the presence of excellence comes across loud and clear. Young Latour quietly and beautifully projects the serenity of someone secure in herself and her talent.
Angelo’s fluid widescreen framing is consistently expressive. Large swaths of classical music are well integrated into the storyline and satisfying in themselves.