In The Truth, a Great Director Falters

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Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke star in Cannes winner Hirokazu Kore-eda's latest.
Photo: IFC Films

There is almost always a ghost in a Hirokazu Kore-eda film, even though he's never made an actual ghost story. His ghosts are not literal phantoms but rather memories of the departed that bear on the present and refuse to go away: Sometimes it's a family member who has recently passed, leaving their belongings and the emotional detritus of their lives for everyone else to deal with; sometimes it's a distant, long-gone figure who still looms over the lives of those he or she left behind. (In what might be the Japanese director's most acclaimed film, 1998's After Life, the tables are turned; the characters are all people who have died, choosing which moment of their lives they'd like to relive in the beyond. In that movie, the departed are the ones haunted by the world.)

In The Truth, the director's first film made outside of Japan, the spectral presence makes for a somewhat awkward fit, a thematic add-on that, even as it informs the story and the characters, also underlines what's not quite working in the picture. Kore-eda has gone through a golden period in recent years. Leading up to his Palme d'Or win at Cannes in 2018 for Shoplifters, he had released several masterpieces or near masterpieces, in a remarkable run that included such titles as The Third Murder (2017), After the Storm (2016), Our Little Sister (2015), and Like Father, Like Son (2013). Although the director has always followed his own muse, it is perhaps a no-brainer that he has been given the chance to make a movie in French and English with major international stars. Adapted from a play Kore-eda apparently left half-finished many years ago, The Truth follows veteran actress Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve), who has just published her tell-all memoirs (titled, of course, The Truth), as she performs in a sentimental science-fiction film opposite Manon (Manon Clavel), a rising young actress who is apparently drawing comparisons to Sarah Mondavan, an acclaimed performer who…
Bilge Ebiri
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