The Truth review – the truth is The Truth needed to go deeper

By Marc Miller
Published: July 3, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
The Truth review - the truth is The Truth needed to go deeper


The truth about The Truth is Kore-eda’s film only goes as deep as the shallow and vain mindset of the Fabienne character, which limits its impact.

It’s a tall order to surpass, not to mention just reach Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2018 critical smash Shoplifters. The film about an eclectic puttogether family who steals to combat a life of poverty was a worldwide cinematic sensation winning the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. His next picture is a departure for him, but not thematically. He directs an almost completely French cast in a family dynamic story about deeper meanings, unspoken conflicts, and hidden truths.

Limur (played beautifully by Juliette Binoche) returns home to visit her famous mother, Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve, French royalty) who just published a memoir of her life. It’s a bumpy reunion, with Limur bringing up several painful memories as soon as she enters the house in the most casual of ways; some as if they were nothing, others aimed to hit their marks. Her American husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke), and daughter (Clementine Griener) come with her to celebrate the book and have a front-row seat the family tension.

The script, also written by Kore-eda, is clever, but heavy-handed. The new sci-fi film Fabienne has a supporting role in has the same character going back at different times and ages, rectifying wrongs made in the film’s mother-daughter relationship. Limur sits on set lamenting the fact her mother couldn’t do for her what she is being paid to do and what a younger version of her is doing right in front of her (played luminously in the faux film by Manon Clavel). Worse off, her mother is having memory issues and cannot even remember the pain she may have caused.

This is Kore-eda’s first non-Japanese film and touches on themes of family dynamics and how shared histories are difficult to let go of. It certainly hits the right note of certain truths, like family is more honest with strangers (or play roles in a film) than they are with their loved ones and themselves.

The connections between the film’s family issues at play and whimsical dots the script connects are interesting, but most of the setups are practically clichés, really. How many films do we really have to watch where the movie-making or acting method background to tell a family story? Also, the tension between parents and their children has been done to death on film, but themes like this are common — how else will we these become cliches if we don’t recycle them now and then?

And therein lies the problem with this little family drama. The main issue, while handled with a deft touch, is that the revelations hardly break new ground or expose anything new in films of a similar mindset (and told from a plot point that’s tired) — including Kore-eda’s own. If you are going to tell a story with themes that have been used a hundred times over, it needs to find a fresh angle, and that wasn’t accomplished here.

While the film mildly works as a whole and has a nearly flawless performance from Deneuve (which I could see garnering awards consideration), the truth about The Truth is this film only goes as far as the shallow and vain mindset of the Fabienne character, which limits its impact. Kore-eda created a distinct look and feel that needed to go deeper.

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