A father and his daughter are separated in part one, only to reunite years later in part two of “All Is Forgiven,” a flawed but sensitively wrought first feature from writer-director Mia Hansen-Love. Linear but fragmented redemption drama could have been titled “Scenes From (and After) a Marriage,” and while its succession of emotionally loaded moments never crystallize into a vivid whole, the strong performances and highly effective use of music should put audiences in a forgiving mood. Heartfelt pic could connect with appreciative adult moviegoers in Gaul, with future fest play a distinct possibility.
Victor (French thesp Paul Blain) and Annette (Austrian actress Marie-Christine Friedrich) live in Vienna with their 6-year-old daughter, Pamela (Victoire Rousseau), and Annette’s large extended family. Theirs is a tempestuous marriage, as Victor is a man of failed literary ambitions and sometimes volatile temper; moving to Paris doesn’t help matters.
After dishing out nearly a full hour’s worth of emotional and sometimes physical abuse, Victor moves in with junkie g.f. Gisele (Olivia Ross). Pic contrives to have Victor break down after Gisele suffers a fatal overdose, after which Annette takes Pamela and returns to Vienna. But 11 years later, she and Pamela (now played by Constance Rousseau, Victoire’s older sister) are again living in Paris, and Victor tentatively lays the groundwork for a reunion.
Scenarists Hansen-Love and Clementine Schaeffer parcel out this narrative info in very discreet bites, one pivotal incident after another with minimal expository tissue in between. Some auds will find this method needlessly oblique and evasive, and without any context, some of the pic’s more jolting developments simply are not very believable. But thematically, the technique does point up the elusive nature of human memory — its tendency to recall life not as a continuous stream of occurrence but as a series of isolated moments.
And thanks to the pic’s abundantly talented cast, those moments here are certainly worth savoring. Blain gives his slackerish father-husband a full-lipped smile that conveys both charm and weakness of will, while nonpro Constance Rousseau is quietly revelatory, showing steely poise beneath her beautiful gamine surface.
Music is sparingly but very stirringly deployed, with a few Scottish folk tunes adding wonderfully poignant flavors to the pic’s French-Austrian cultural stew. Other tech credits are excellent, with Pascal Auffray’s clear, colorful lensing a special plus.