A picture of joy and pain: in equal measure?
Stunning is a word much over-used, especially by estate agents, but stunned is the best way to sum up my feelings at the end of this film. I have never seen a whole audience leave a cinema in such deep silence.
The gist of the plot is easily described: George and Anne are a cultured French couple in their eighties, living happily in their Paris apartment. Anne has a minor stroke, and then a major one: George devotes himself to caring for her.
Before you stop reading this for fear of depressing yourself, it’s important to say that there’s a lot of sweetness in this film. As Anne loses her mobility and her faculties, we really see the love between the couple deepen, and George keeps finding her where she can be met: singing a children’s song together, or a touch of the hands.
However, it’s not an easy film to watch. We see how George’s own life evaporates, as all his attention goes on Anne. We see how demanding, and how lonely, this care can be, and how such situations can be divisive within families.
Probably it’s also hard because we start imagining ourselves as the carer or the cared-for. And it may remind us of our own parents or others we know: for me it stirred memories of my father’s last years and his series of strokes.
This film should help you value every moment of your life while you still have mobility and full faculties; George is in some ways an inspiring role model of how to sustain the love as your partner declines, but in other ways a warning to beware of the isolation this can lead to.