Principal Cast : Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner, Antoine Reinartz, Samuel Theis, Jehnny Beth, Saadia Bentaieb, Camille Rutherford, Sophie Fillieres, Anne Rotget.
Synopsis: A woman is suspected of her husband’s murder, and their blind son faces a moral dilemma as the main witness.


Legal dramas are practically a staple on the small screen these days, but (at least through my viewfinder) appear to be few and far between on the silver one, inasmuch as good ones often go unnoticed by general audiences. A good murder mystery, with a wide ensemble of potential killers, a number of red herrings, and a dedicated gumshoe born to solve crimes, has become part of cinema’s ancient history to some degree, resurrected briefly by Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot remakes and few others. Legal thrillers like A Few Good Men, The Firm or The Lincoln Lawyer are outliers in today’s superhero or fantasy franchise onslaught. Incredibly, French film Anatomy of A Fall, a crime drama in which a woman is accused of murdering her husband and wholly reliant on the testimony of her blind son, was nominated for Best Picture, the director for Best Director, and lead actress Sandra Huller for Best Actress, at the Oscars, and I guess the main question I could ask is… why?

Anatomy of A Fall is a very good film. I mean, a really good story, great characters, and a tense, rising-dead tone that manifests through a supremely intricate audio mix. However, unlike many memorable Best Picture contenders (and winners), Anatomy of A Fall doesn’t “take your breath away” with a shocking or erudite revelation, introspection on the human condition, or plot twist, and it certainly isn’t the most technical showstopper of the year by any stretch. It’s a terrific film, sure, but I am unsure if it warrants a Best Picture nod. Huller’s turn as Sandra Voyter is magnificent and heart-breaking, and deserves a spot in the Best Actress list for absolute certain, but taken as a whole I am surprised at just how “sure, fine” the film ends up being. Unlike countless Best Picture nominees before it I really have need to revisit this one; now that I’ve seen it, that’s all I need.

Using a mixture of French, English and sliver of German dialogue, Anatomy Of A Fall is a quiet character study of one woman’s assertion of innocence in the face of evidence that she may have killed her husband, who himself may or may not have been abusing  her. It’s one of those decidedly European mysteries whereby the sound mix is a heightened, breathless work of crumpled clothing, sighing, creaking wood floors and naturalistic aurality, dropping you in the midst of a real world instead of a fictional one; the film is shot almost like a crime documentary at times, a fly-on-the-wall faux found footage tone elevated by director Justine Triet’s crisply nonchalant photography. There’s an impressive frisson at play throughout this, as if we’re eavesdropping on something we shouldn’t (and maybe we shouldn’t…) and while the outcome is uncertain right to the end, the film convinces you in both Sonya’s guilt and innocence as it winds its way to its respectably underwhelming conclusion.

I enjoyed Anatomy of A Fall a lot, and engaged with the central character more than I expected to. The film looks lovely, sounds amazing (I watched it with headphones in) and is intriguing and tense. Is it Best Picture material? Not for me (although I thought the same thing of CODA, so what do I know?) but it’s a film well worth your time containing some remarkable performances.

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