Her Name Is Sabine

Her Name Is Sabine


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Sabine’s story is agonising. The youngest of three sisters, brought up in an elegant Parisian suburb, she experienced the security and privilege of a close-knit family. But she was different, slower, less capable of playing the game of life, or surviving school where they called her Crazy Sabine and made her cry.

When her sisters left home and Sandrine became a famous actress, Sabine’s childhood ended. The disease, a form of autism, infected her brain and she changed from a svelte, glorious girl into an overweight, shambling woman, drugged to the eyeballs in a mental institution where she self-abused, hit people, screamed uncontrollably, shouted obscenities at strangers and lay on the grass like a beached whale, refusing to move. She talked of having babies and marrying a fireman. Memories were painful. Sandrine played a DVD of their trip to New York when she was still young and her hair was long and flowing and she smiled like a child and danced. Watching it, the 39-year-old convict-cropped woman howled. “Tears of joy,” she called them, her cheeks wet and red.

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Some might consider Sandrine’s documentary an act of courage in the pursuit of truth, while others, distressed by the exposure of her sister’s humiliation, may see it as an intrusion into personal grief. Certainly to compare the carefree, lovely girl with the troubled mental patient is a terrible sadness.

“You’re not a whore; you’re my sister,” she shouts at the camera. “You’re not a bitch; you’re my sister.”

Her distress is palpable, constantly asking Sandrine, “Will you come tomorrow? Will you come?”

Sandrine says she will, but she can’t come every day. There are movies to make, a life to lead. Sabine has an insatiable hunger for something that is lost. Youth? Happiness? Home? What remains are caring helpers, medication and the knowledge that she is no longer desirable, no longer in love’s way, an outcast in a maze of confusion, where the past is strong, where she remains forever beautiful.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2008
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Her Name Is Sabine packshot
Sandrine Bonnaire documents the sad life of her autistic sister.

Director: Sandrine Bonnaire

Writer: Sandrine Bonnaire, Catherine Cabrol

Starring: Sabine Bonnaire

Year: 2007

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: France


Birds 2008
French 2008

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