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aka - Soeurs Fachées, Les
France 2004
Directed by
Alexandra Leclere
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Me and My Sister

Synopsis: Martine (Isabelle Huppert) is an aloof but attractive woman, a city dweller in a loveless marriage to Pierre (Francois Berleand). Her sister Louise (Catherine Frot) is her total opposite - living in a provincial town and having none of her sister's airs or snobbery. If anything she is a touch gauche. When Louise, an aspiring writer, sends her manuscript to a publisher, she is invited to Paris for a meeting, and stays with Martine. We are then privy to just how ghastly and yet binding the interrelationships between family can be.

Whilst on one level Me and my Sister comes across as a comedy it is touched with many wryly amusing moments and a couple of truly heart-wrenching scenes. There is a certain air of insouciance that is so typically French - and incredibly endearing, at least in films! Could real life ever be this way?

In many ways the film is almost a two-hander, with two of France's best-loved actresses giving it their all to create a pair of sisters so unalike as to make one wonder whether they are even related! Huppert displays the entire range of emotion and a truly great acting ability. The character of Martine is established from the initial shot - the way in which this woman gargles says it all - a compulsive, obsessive, controlling perfectionist. And when she asks Pierre if he could breathe more quietly and then instructs Louise as to how many kisses on the cheek are mandatory, we have her number. So many other aspects to her character are flawlessly played out by Huppert - most of them unpleasant and yet always with a subtext that evokes a glimmer of sympathy.

Frot, as Louise, is the perfect foil - sweet, solicitous, garrulous, diffident and at times child-like. She is a woman with true joie de vivre - she sees magic in the world, while Martine sees only tedium. Louise is kind, whereas Martine is cruel. One spectacular two-shot close-up of the sisters at the opera says it all.

The lesser characters add depth to the storyline: there is a terrific dinner party scene where Martine and her snooty hairdresser friend are desperately embarrassed by Louise and yet the men at the table are fascinated by her openness; the way the sisters relate to Martine's young son also shows the total dichotomy between the women.

The film should particularly appeal to people with troubled sibling relationships, or even just fans of good solid French cinema. Though not earth-shattering, it's totally engaging, witty with fine performances all round.




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