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This year’s Palme d’Or winner is carried by an excellent Sandra Hüller performance but the credibility the film oozes in the domestic arena, it lacks in the many courtroom scenes.

The heights a picture could have scaled had it followed through on its premise can often cloud your perception of the film that's actually there on the screen. Clearly the Cannes jury this year saw greatness in Anatomy of a Fall. I mostly see a good idea diluted by questionable execution.

The movie begins with the death of a man, who falls out of the second floor window of his snowy home in a remote French region. An accident it seems, or perhaps suicide, until the police talk to his wife and don't like the answers she gives. A year later she finds herself on trial, as her private life is dredged out for all to see in order to question her moral integrity.

Anatomy of a Fall is strongest when it's examining the fragile bond between Sandra Hüller's suspect wife and her nearly blind son, who as the film progresses starts to wonder if his mother really could be a killer. Because of Hüller's powerful performance and her chemistry with young Milo Machado Graner, these scenes sparkler, even if director Justine Triet foregoes an Hitchcockian approach that could have elevated the film.

Where the movie loses me is in its many courtroom scenes. Perhaps the French justice system truly cares more about character than about facts, but the many character-destroying detours the lawyers in the film take were never credible to me. They abruptly jolted me out of the narrative and made it impossible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Therefore I found Anatomy of a Fall to be an intriguing premise ruined by messy plotting. A third act that stubbornly refuses to hint at clear answers - always problematic in a procedural film - doesn't help either.

release: 2023

director: Justine Triet

starring: Sandra Hüller, Milo Machado Graner, Samuel Theis, Swann Arlaud


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