Mademoiselle Chambon (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner24/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 101 mins

Understated, powerfully emotional drama that plays like an updated French version of Brief Encounter, thanks to a superb script and terrific performances from Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kilberlain.

What's it all about?
Directed by Stephane Brize, Mademoiselle Chambon stars Vincent Lindon as Jean, a builder, who lives a contented life with his wife Anne-Marie (Aure Aitka) and his young son Jeremy (Arthur Le Houerou). When Anne-Marie injures her back, Jean takes Jeremy to school and meets his teacher, Veronique Chambon (Sandrine Kilberlain), a lonely woman who never stays in any town longer than a year.

After a chance encounter in town, Veronique asks Jean to help her fix a broken window in her flat and the two strike up a tentative friendship. However, after Veronique plays a classical piece for Jean on the violin, something sparks to life between them and soon they are both contemplating an affair, even if neither of them can actually come out and say it.

The Good
Vincent Lindon is terrific as Jean and his seemingly blank face is once again put to superb use; the flickers of emotion in his eyes are barely perceptible and yet you know exactly what he's thinking. Kilberlain is equally good and there's strong chemistry between her and Lindon, while there's sterling work from both Aitka and Le Houerou (to be fair, Le Houerou is possibly slightly too good, as their relationship is beautifully played, to the point where you never really believe that Jean would consider abandoning his son).

The understated script is excellent, allowing the emotions between the two leads to play out physically rather than through the dialogue; as a result there's an extremely strong sense of connection between them. To that effect, there are some powerfully moving scenes, such as the moment that Jean blurts out that he's married.

The Great
Brize's use of music in the film is extremely impressive and highly emotional; the transformation the violin piece triggers in Jean is at once thrilling and potentially dangerous. Intriguingly, this is mirrored later on, in the scene where Veronique plays for Jean's father at a birthday party and the music causes another reaction.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, Mademoiselle Chambon is an emotionally charged relationship drama with a pair of terrific central performances from Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kilberlain. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/02/2020 16:33

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