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Maddened by his Absence (J’Enrage de son Absence) by Sandrine Bonnaire

November 7, 2013


Jacques (William Hurt) is a successful architect in Boston who has spent most of his life between France (his father’s country) and the US (his mother’s country), when his old man dies it is time to return to France to finally face another death, his own son death, who died in a car accident where Jacques was driving nine years before; Jacques’s former wife Mado (Alexandra Lamy) has a new life, a new husband and a new son: during his stay for the funeral and heritage arrangements Jacques will meet Mado and he will try to develop a substitute son relationship with Paul (Jalil Mehenni). The film is subtle and explicit at the same time, Jacques has lived nine years without facing the reality of his son’s death so we assume the death of his own father is the trigger which has led him to an instantaneous madness: in the opening scene Jacques sits in his car parked outside Mado’s house where Paul is playing with a friend in the courtyard, they are shooting each other and Paul will end his run on Jacques’s car exclaiming ¨I’m dead¨ – the scene touches many levels of morbidity and later into the film – when we discover that Jacques’s presence was no coincidence – we gather that he has hired a private investigator to become acquainted with Mado’s whereabouts.


Sandrine Bonnaire has always been a courageous actress and for her directorial debut she has chosen a difficult subject and she has realized a film full of echoes from the past: her leading actor – William Hurt – had already played a similar role in The Accidental Tourist, her screenwriter – Jérôme Tonnerre – was a Sautet regular when Bonnaire started working with the author of Un Coeur en Hiver. Alas William Hurt seems unable to deliver something else than his usual self, while the screenplay creates a morbid atmosphere – a fascination with an aura of death even with the young Paul – that makes uneasy for the viewer to sympathize with the characters or to share their motivations.

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