Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film, The Truth (La vérité) is now available on streaming platforms, and on MUBI in the U.K. This is Kore-eda’s first film shot in France, after his Palme d’Or award-winning Shoplifters. The Truth continues the filmmaker’s interest in family dynamics. However, this isn’t any ordinary family, with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche playing mother and daughter.
The family depicted in The Truth is a particular one, headed by an icon of French cinema who lives in a big house, deemed to look like “a castle,” with a beautiful garden inhabited by a tortoise in the middle of Paris. Kore-eda’s film is no Parisian fairytale, but a film that explores mother/daughter relationships through the prism of film acting.
Catherine Deneuve plays Fabienne Dangeville, a glamourous French film star who is capricious and a little bit of a diva. She receives the visit of her daughter, Lumir, played by Juliette Binoche, with her husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their young daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier). They’ve come from New York to celebrate the publication of Fabienne’s new autobiography. Lumir, however, is quick to read through and point out to her mother that her memoir isn’t completely truthful, while ironically being titled “La vérité” (the truth). Fabienne’s response, full of wit, is that she is an actress and thus, of course, she would never tell the “naked truth.” Furthermore, she adds, the truth is boring.
Fabienne and Lumir have a conflictual relationship, that seems to have been dampened by the presence of a certain Sarah in the past. As Fabienne works on a new role in a science-fiction film about a mother/daughter relationship throughout the ages, her own strained relationship with Lumir seems to slowly ease towards a possible reconciliation.
Kore-eda’s The Truth tells a simple story that is here magnified by two incredible leads, balancing wit and emotion. Catherine Deneuve is rather magnificent as the aging film star whose every comment sounds like—and actually is— an insult. Her witty battles with Juliette Binoche’s character are just a delight. Deneuve and Binoche, in their first film together, create a great duo that makes you want to see more of them together.
This is because The Truth is just as much a film about acting—a career, the film suggests, that blurs the line between truth and lies. The film opens as Fabienne is being interviewed by a nervous journalist, clearly intimidated by the actress, revealing the traits of Fabienne’s character, who could easily be mistaken for a modern incarnation of Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, in her glamour and nostalgia for the past, constantly forgetting who from her generation is still living. Kore-eda here plays with the film star persona headed towards the end of her career, and Deneuve’s own revered filmography, as one of Fabienne’s films, whose poster stands proudly on her mantelpiece, is named “The Belle of Paris”, which recalls one of Deneuve’s most famous role in Bunuel’s Belle de Jour. While Deneuve has nothing to do with Fabienne, the film does beautifully reveal the subtlety of an actress’ craft.
As the title implies, this is a film that explores truths and lies we tell. The characters tell each other so many lies that it is difficult to decipher when truths surface. There is a moment when the little Charlotte is caught lying by her grandmother’s manager, Luc (Alain Libolt). She tells a young actress on set of her grandmother’s film that she too is an actress in Hollywood. The film captures Charlotte’s amused embarrassment when she notices Luc has heard her lie. This is ultimately what Kore-eda’s film explores. The little white lies we tell each other, while completely aware that others know we are lying.
The Truth was set for theatrical release in the U.K. on March 20. However, with the pandemic and closures of cinemas, Curzon, which distributes the film in the U.K., made the decision to release the film on its online platform, Curzon Home Cinema. It became the most streamed title on the platform for that opening weekend. IFC Films acquired the distribution rights to the film in North America.
The Truth is now on streaming platforms, such as Amazon, and exclusively on MUBI in the U.K.