Posts Tagged ‘“The Midwife”’

Catherine Deneuve, Catharine Frot

“THE MIDWIFE” My rating: B 

116 minutes | No MPAA rating

Two of France’s greatest actresses square off for the first time in “The Midwife,” delivering a quiet drama that engrosses without resorting to big “actorly” moments.

Claire (Catherine Frot, so terrific in last year’s “Marguerite”) is the title character of Martin Provost’s film, an employee at a Paris maternity clinic that soon will be shuttered to make way for a big corporate-run hospital.  She’s offered a job with the new outfit, but can’t abide the impersonal atmosphere of quota-run medicine. Which is a big problem…her work is the great joy of her life.

Mostly she lives a solitary, monkish existence. Her college-age son (Quentin Dolmaire) has quietly drifted away (there’s no mention of his father). And Claire is so health-conscious that she’s given up meat and wine (why live in France if you’re going to eat like an ascetic?).

Enter Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve), an aging party girl who has returned to France after years of jet setting. Back when Claire was a teen her father — a swimming champion — had an affair with Beatrice that broke up his marriage. After a few months Beatrice abruptly ended that relationship to gadabout the globe.

Now she’s come back to Paris to reconnect with the love of her life…only to be told by Claire that after being abandoned by Beatrice her brokenhearted father killed himself.

As far as Claire is concerned, after delivering that information she owes Beatrice nothing.  But the older woman reveals that she is dying of a brain tumor — not that she’s going to let a little thing like that cut into her lifestyle of good food and wine, smoking and gambling.

“The Midwife” is basically the story of how the vivacious, hard-living and unapologetically selfish Beatrice slowly transfers some of her values to the good, gray Claire.

That widening of Claire’s narrow horizon extends to a sweet affair with a truck driver (Olivier Gourmet) whose vegetable patch abuts her own.

There are no acting fireworks here.  Writer/director Provost has given us a drama that mostly adheres to the quiet rhythms of real life.

But these two effortlessly luminous actresses make the story compelling.

| Robert W. Butler

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