His Mother’s Eyes

"His Mother's Eyes" stars Catherine Deneuve and Geraldine Pailhas as an estranged mother and daughter.

With: Catherine Deneuve, Geraldine Pailhas, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marina Fois, Marisa Paredes, Jean-Marc Barr, Jean-Baptiste Lafarge, Karole Rocher, Helene Fillieres, Gilles Cohen, Romain Goupil, Jean-Claude Moreau. (French, Spanish dialogue)

Moms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in “His Mother’s Eyes,” from Gallic helmer Thierry Klifa. This follow-up to “Family Hero” is another multi-character meller, with “Hero” stars Catherine Deneuve and Geraldine Pailhas here playing an estranged mother and daughter. Their connection (or lack thereof) is not the only difficult mother-offspring relationship portrayed, though the screenplay, peppered with nods to Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother,” initially struggles to pull this overarching theme into focus. Local March 23 opening was soft, but the marquee-value cast should help sell this in ancillary and abroad.

Like “Family Hero,” pic opens with the passing of an old man, which is used as an excuse to introduce his extended family. Two women are present at the deathbed of respected Spanish journo Miguel Canales (Jean-Claude Moreau): his thirtysomething ballerina daughter, Maria (Pailhas), and Maria’s grandmother, Judit (Marisa Paredes). Notably absent is Maria’s mother and Miguel’s ex-wife, Lena (Deneuve), a famous, hard-working French news anchor who hasn’t spoken to the other two women in years.

Helping to unearth the dirt on this large family full of secrets — for the aud’s gain as well as his own — is muckraking writer Mathieu (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who has chosen the clan as the subject for another (hopefully bestselling) unauthorized biography published under a pseudonym. Mathieu manages to get himself hired as an assistant to Lena, whose days as a broadcast star are numbered, and also hooks up with Maria, who’s prepping a dance show in Paris and whom he once met 10 years earlier.

Early reels are something of a narrative mess, with the stories initially too unconnected to become immediately involving, and certain events, such as the death of Miguel, are so tangential that they never seem to impact any of the characters emotionally. Things finally come together, quite literally, an hour into the proceedings, in a neatly executed, five-minute montage sequence that juxtaposes a newscast, a boxing match and a dance performance, after which the film settles into a more straightforwardly plotted melodrama.

Deneuve convincingly limns another frigid career woman who’s not entirely without emotions; her expression at the end of her last moments on the air is a small, bravura piece of acting that would probably be lost on the smallscreen. Somewhat surprisingly, the other strong turn comes from newcomer Jean-Baptiste Lafarge, who displays not only real presence but also a gift for playing the complicated adolescent emotions of a young Breton who’s somewhat awkwardly shoehorned into the main plot. Rest of the ensemble is OK to fine.

Pic’s division between faraway Spain and France, where all characters finally meet, feels forced, as do the more explicit nods to “All About My Mother,” the most painfully obvious, besides Paredes’ casting, being a scene in which Deneuve drives away in a car in the pouring rain from her office, which is covered in an enormous headshot of herself.

Thankfully, tech contributions seem otherwise unaware of the Almodovar connection, with Gustavo Santaolalla’s typically spare, guitar-driven score and Julien Hirsch’s no-frills widescreen lensing veering closer to down-to-earth normality than to pastiche or melodramatic excess. HD projection caught did clearly show signs of distracting fiddling done in postproduction to soften the actresses’ faces, except for the haggard-looking Paredes, who, though actually younger than Deneuve, here plays someone a full generation older.

His Mother's Eyes


Production: A Mars Film Distribution release of an LGM Cinema presentation and production, in association with La Petite Reine, France Televisions, Tarantula, with participation of RTBF, Canal Plus, CineCinema. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont. Directed by Thierry Klifa. Screenplay, Klifa, Christopher Thompson.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, 35mm-to-HD), Julien Hirsch; editor, Luc Barnier; music, Gustavo Santaolalla; production designer, Emmanuelle Duplay; costume designer, Catherine Leterrier; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Pascal James, Francis Wargnier, Thomas Gauder; choreography, Sylvain Groud; line producer, David Giordano; assistant director, Olivier Jacquet; casting, Sarah Teper, Leila Fournier. Reviewed at Cine Utopia, Luxembourg, April 3, 2011. (In City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival.) Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Catherine Deneuve, Geraldine Pailhas, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marina Fois, Marisa Paredes, Jean-Marc Barr, Jean-Baptiste Lafarge, Karole Rocher, Helene Fillieres, Gilles Cohen, Romain Goupil, Jean-Claude Moreau. (French, Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Don Edkins, documentary filmmaker

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Booksmart Director

    Film News Roundup: Olivia Wilde to Direct Holiday Comedy for Universal

    In today’s film news roundup, Olivia Wilde has landed another directing gig following “Booksmart” and revenge thriller “Seaside” and “Woodstock: The Directors Cut” get August release dates. PROJECT LAUNCH Olivia Wilde will direct and produce an untitled holiday comedy project for Universal Pictures with her “Booksmart” partner Katie Silberman. Universal outbid five other studios for [...]

  • Choas Charles Mansion and the CIA

    Amazon Studios Takes Film Rights to Manson-Centered Drama 'Chaos' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the grisly murders executed by the followers of Charles Manson, Amazon Studios has optioned film rights to a nonfiction title about a journalist who spent decades obsessively following the case. The studio will adapt “Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties,” from [...]

  • Sword of Trust

    Marc Maron on 'Sword of Trust,' Lynn Shelton and Conspiracy Theories

    Marc Maron has interviewed everyone from Bruce Springsteen to President Obama, so he’s probably learned a few things about being a good interview. Of course, as he points out, he generally has over an hour to talk leisurely speak with his guests in his home and draw out stories beyond the public narrative; it’s a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content