Character actress Anne Le Ny makes a haunting scripting-helming debut with “Those Who Remain.” A German teacher spends afternoons at the suburban Paris hospital where his wife is a patient on the breast cancer ward. His innocent conversations with a younger and far flightier graphic artist, whose b.f. is also being treated for cancer, gradually evolve: Their voices say “vous,” but their bodies yearn for less formal avenues of expression. A sort of Gallic “Brief Encounter” intelligently updated to reflect modern mores, fest-ready pic was released locally in late August to glowing reviews.
The teacher, Bertrand (Vincent Lindon), and the artist, Lorraine (Emmanuelle Devos), endeavor to remain cordial and civilized while struggling with panic and guilt. Neither protag’s significant other is ever seen, yet the offscreen mates’ presumed suffering infuses the proceedings. Bertrand deeply loves his wife; Lorraine has only been in her relationship for a year.
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Thoughtful blend of delicacy and pragmatism, selfishness and sacrifice makes the most of a handful of locations and rituals: a few cups of coffee, the hospital’s newsstand, Lorraine’s car, the bus on which Bertrand commutes.
Bertrand’s 16-year-old stepdaughter Valentine (Yeelem Jappain) is having trouble coping with her mom’s protracted illness. Helmer casts herself as Bertrand’s meddling and outgoing sis.
Down-to-earth, utterly believable venture explores commitment, fortitude and the eternal scramble to be true to one’s feelings without being unfair to others.
Lindon and Devos, last seen together in “The Moustache,” play off each other with the right measure of sincerity and subterfuge.
Unfussy widescreen lensing anchors narrative with admirable simplicity.