Film review: Thérèse Desqueyroux starring Audrey Tatou


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The Independent Culture

Audrey Tautou stars as the title character in Claude Miller's adaptation of Mauriac's classic novel of bourgeois entrapment.

In 1920s Bordeaux, Thérèse is a free-spirited young woman who knows she must marry stolid huntsman Bernard (Gilles Lellouche) and thus unite their land-owning families – she has "property in her blood", and soon a child in her belly.

It's not until her beloved sister-in-law Anne (Anaïs Demoustier) falls for an outsider – Jewish, and therefore unacceptable – that Thérèse begins to realise the prison of convention she has made for herself. Her means of escape will prove more drastic than anyone can imagine.

Miller nicely outlines the oppressive atmosphere surrounding the Bordeaux gentry, but the pace of his movie is too languid and its characters remain too opaque.

The subtleties and ambiguities Mauriac entertained in the novel find no equivalent on screen, and the heroic independence of Thérèse often looks like mere self-indulgence, or self-pity.

"She thinks too much," someone remarks of her – once a dangerous flaw in a woman – but film isn't good at suggesting thought, let alone too much of it.