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2 New Movies Exploring Mother-Daughter-Granddaughter Relationships Reviewed


Two new movies, a French dramedy and an Australian thriller, center on fraught mother-daughter-granddaughter relationships. In the French film "The Truth," the characters can't agree on where the truth lies. Our critic Bob Mondello says that puts the film way ahead of the horror movie characters in "Relic."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Kay and her college-aged daughter are on a rescue mission in "Relic." To grandmother's house they go...




MONDELLO: ...After a call alerts them that no one's seen her in a few days.


HEATHCOTE: (As Sam) Gran?


MONDELLO: Kay, played by Emily Mortimer, is concerned that Gran might be slipping mentally. The house suggests as much - Post-it note reminders everywhere, serious clutter, mold on walls, a bowl of rotting fruit. A police search turns up nothing. And then, as abruptly as she disappeared, Granny's back in the kitchen.


ROBYN NEVIN: (As Edna) Tea?

MORTIMER: (As Kay) You OK?

NEVIN: (As Edna) One sugar, right?

HEATHCOTE: (As Sam) Gran.

MONDELLO: Still, all is not well. And you'll soon realize that first-time filmmaker Natalie Erika James has come up with an unusual horror trope - a house in disarray as a metaphor for dementia, maze-like hallways mirroring the disorder in Gran's mind.


NEVIN: (As Edna) Since your grandfather passed, this house seems unfamiliar, bigger somehow.

MONDELLO: To her daughter and granddaughter's alarm, it's not just Gran who is disoriented in this place. They're also threatened by a creeping rot that blooms across generations in "Relic," much as dementia consumes caring families, all complicated by family tensions.


MORTIMER: (As Kay) Do you need help?

NEVIN: (As Edna) With what?

MORTIMER: (As Kay) There are Post-it notes everywhere, Mum.

NEVIN: (As Edna) It's my house. I can decorate it however I want.

MONDELLO: Mothers and daughters struggling to help one another as memories fade and an inescapable fate looms ever larger.

In the dramedy "The Truth," the tensions are far lighter, if no less heartfelt, when a screenwriter played by Juliette Binoche arrives with family to visit her mother Fabienne, one of France's most celebrated movie stars.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) The house looks like a castle.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Ha - it does.

CATHERINE DENEUVE: (As character) Yes, even though there is a prison just behind it.

MONDELLO: Fabienne, the celebrated movie star who lives in this castle, is played by Catherine Deneuve, arguably France's most celebrated movie star. And the film delights in playing with that casting. Deneuve's reputation as an imperious, slightly distant film icon recycled for the part of Binoche's imperious, slightly distant mother who has written a memoir titled "La Verite," "The Truth." Binoche, armed with copious notes, bristles that much of what Fabienne has written never happened - not once.


JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Lumir, speaking French).

DENEUVE: (As Fabienne, speaking French).

MONDELLO: You're using Post-its? marvels Fabienne, before protesting, I'm an actress.

DENEUVE: (As Fabienne, speaking French).

MONDELLO: I won't tell the naked truth. As it happens, she rarely even tells the fully clothed truth, but that's where the fun lies.

Director Hirokazu Koreeda, working for the first time in a language other than his native Japanese, plays with all manner of truths in "La Verite," from Fabienne explaining to the granddaughter who needs her to be a witch that, yes, she does have magical powers...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking French)

DENEUVE: (As Fabienne, speaking French).

MONDELLO: ...To this grand dame of French cinema getting stage fright on a sci-fi film set then conjuring an acted truth that's kind of breathtaking. You're invited to conflate the character of Fabienne with Daneuve herself. And it's clear that the star - whose middle name is Fabienne, let's note - is having fun blurring those lines. Koreeda's even provided a plot point that centers on the signature dress - black with white collar and cuffs - that Deneuve wore in "Belle De Jour" 53 years ago. All in the service of a story in the truth about family and filmmaking, mothers and daughters, memory and the comforting fictions we think we remember.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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