As awards season kicks off, there’s one movie I’m hoping gets its flowers. “Anatomy of a Fall,” directed by Justine Triet, is a nuanced tale of morality, victimhood and human connection, all wrapped up in a courtroom drama.
The film follows Sandra (Sandra Hüller) as she’s put on trial following her husband’s death from a mysterious fall. Their blind son Daniel, (Milo Machado Graner), is a key witness in the case who fights between loyalty to his mother and his duty as a witness.
The dichotomy between the courtroom and home scenes are brilliant. We see the motherly, vulnerable side of Sandra alongside her colder, more serious side. Her chemistry with her lawyer and friend Vincent (Swann Arlaud) is electric. Anytime the two share a scene, the affection they have for one another is palpable.
In a scene at the end of the film, the two have a quiet moment in the snow where they reminisce about when they first met. Vincent says he believes in Sandra’s innocence, but the audience doesn’t know if he truly believes this or if love clouds his judgment, making the plot all the more interesting.
Our perception of Sandra is splendidly shaped by the filmmakers as the audience debates whether she really is innocent. The film makes certain to leave this ambiguous; even when the verdict is reached, we’re not quite sure. If you think she’s guilty, the film still manages to make her sympathetic. We perceive Sandra through her son, who does everything in his power to imagine a scenario where she’s not guilty. Machado Graner captures the internal struggle in Daniel so well – a little boy thrust into a high profile case where he’s the deciding factor in his mom’s fate.
In a scene near the end of the film, we finally get to see Sandra’s husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis). An audio recording of a fight the day before his death is played for the court and we see the true tumultuous nature of their relationship.
They fight about who has compromised more, as Samuel believes he’s given up everything for Sandra. One line stands out to me that reflects the entire film: “Your generosity conceals something dirtier and meaner,” Sandra shouts.
It abruptly makes us question everything Samuel has said, along with the true motives of other characters in the film. It prompts us to take a closer look beyond the veil of their kindness – to ask, “What do they get from this?”
The French director, Triet, has made a gorgeous film full of life, despite its dark premise. The characters feel human, which is what truly shapes this film. It showcases the range of emotions and relationships we have in our lives, and the ways that love can blind us.
“Anatomy of a Fall” is a movie I can see myself watching again and again, just to catch the carefully crafted details I might’ve missed. I encourage you to give this movie a try. Whether you're looking for a good mystery or wanting to get into foreign films, there’s something here for everyone.
Mel Treat is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo
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