The Sea Wall (NC)

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The Independent Culture

Isabelle Huppert's brittle poise dominates this adaptation of Marguerite Duras's novel of colonialism in eclipse.

She's a widow in 1930s Cambodia who's struggling against bankruptcy after the sea wall protecting her farmland collapses (metaphor alert). She senses an escape route when a young Vietnamese plutocrat is attracted to her 16-year-old daughter (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), though such a liaison offends her snobbish sense of entitlement and provokes the outright hostility of her son (Gaspard Ulliel). Rithy Panh's film catches the simmering tensions of a country under the yoke, though the latter stages lack the urgency one might have expected of a film so deeply engaged with imperial corruption and wrongdoing.

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