The Midwife

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Midwife
"The acting here is of high quality, with Frot shading just enough warmth and melancholy into Claire to stop her becoming a total wet blanket... Deneuve, throwing caution to the wind"

The chief draw of Martin Provost's low-key drama is the combination of Catherine Frot, underplaying, and Catherine Deneuve amping it up to the max.

Frot, plays Claire, whose very name suggests middle-of-the-road. She works as a midwife in a soon-to-be-closed department. "I'm perfectly serious," she says at one point, and the three-word phrase sums her up. She doesn't drink, smoke, eat meat (a combination that is surely some sort of Cardinal sin in France) or, it seems, have anything approaching a social life, with her only escape spending time on her allotment and occasional visits from her student son (Quentin Dolmaire), whom she has raised single-handed.

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That is until the day Beatrice (Deneuve) blasts back into her life, like a character who secured day release from a Pedro Almodovar film. Beatrice was Claire's father's lover until the day she walked out without a backward glance. She's as impetuous as Claire is stable, her leopard print scarves and lust for bright colours in stark contrast to the younger woman's dun-coloured wardrobe and sensible shoes.

She's back because she's sick and, although reluctant at first, Claire finds herself somehow drawn back by Beatrice's energy. Meanwhile, other tectonic plates in her life are also starting to shift as change is imminent on the job front, Simon has an announcement and the lorry driving son of her allotment neighbour (Olivier Gourmet, under-used) suddenly starts to take a shine to her.

The acting here is of high quality, with Frot shading just enough warmth and melancholy into Claire to stop her becoming a total wet blanket, although Deneuve, throwing caution to the wind, gets all the best lines. Well shot scenes of the birth of several babies during the film, also help to build sympathy for Claire, but there's no getting away from the fact that she's a bit on the dull side. Deneuve is fearless but her character's illness remains of the 'made-for-film' sort - only painful/debilitating when it is called upon for plot purposes. By the end, the performances catch you, even though the drama doesn't quite deliver.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2017
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The Midwife packshot
A midwife's life is shaken up by the arrival of her father's old flame.

Festivals:

BIFF 2017
EIFF 2017

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