Les Yeux Clairs

Les Yeux Clairs

****

Reviewed by: George Williamson

Fanny acts like a normal child: she plays in the park, learns the piano, has fights with her brother and occasionally sulks in her room. However, as Fanny is in her mid thirties, her family are beginning to get a little upset.

Living with her brother and his wife in her father's home, Fanny (Nathalie Boutefeu) copes with her mental problems through a combination of medication, drinking and brief fits of violent rage, usually aimed at the people closest to her. The discovery that her sister-in-law is having an affair with a local antiques dealer catalyses her to steal the family car and embark on a pilgrimage to her father's grave in Germany. On the way she has several minor adventures before puncturing a tyre in the middle of a dark forest. A lonely hermit (Lars Rudolph) comes to her aid and a relationship, unfettered by language (she speaks no German, he speaks no French), develops between them.

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Boutefeu's wonderful acting paints a vivid portrait of Fanny through her interactions - especially the non-verbal, almost slapstick communication with Oskar the hermit - and Jerome (Le Chignon d'Olga) Bonnell's direction is delicate and nuanced, rather than raw and visceral, making this a particularly emotive film.

Under another director's influence, Les Yeux Clairs could have followed a completely different, much bleaker path, or become something that was stomach churningly sweet and sentimental. Instead, it occupies a middle ground, depicting events in a realistic fashion, without becoming too unpleasant, and the ending is refreshingly ambiguous.

The plot has a folk tale quality - the girl running from her wicked sister-in-law and finding solace in a kindly hermit could be directly lifted from The Brother's Grimm - but the manner of its telling and modern setting means it doesn't intrude upon the proceedings.

Pascal Lagriffoul's cinematography sets the scene beautifully, coming into its own during the bucolic scenes towards the end, using contrasting natural geometry without resorting to bland scenic shots.

Les Yeux Clairs isn't the most exciting, or surprising, film you'll see, but it is supremely accomplished and a reiteration of how excellent acting, careful direction and a simple story can sometimes make the best cinema.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2005
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Well-acted drama about a sheltered bipolar girl who inadvertantly goes on a road-trip.

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