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LA VIE PROMISE (NR) (2002)

Empire Pictures

Official Site

Director: Olivier Dahan

Producers: Éric Névé

Written by: Olivier Dahan, Agnés Fustier-Dahan

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory, Maud Forget, Fabienne Babe, Andre Marcon

 

 Rating:


I’ve always heard a rumor that foreign films are supposed to be superior to the big blockbuster disasters of Hollywood. Amelie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Il Postino: all masterpieces dedicated to their characters and storylines rather than their special effects. La Vie Promise, however, gives off the distinct feeling of trying too hard to live up to such expectations. The deep mood music and scenic shots jar with the less-than-poignant content, resulting in a disappointing falseness to the story. La Vie Promise wants to be touching and artistic, a journey of self-discovery and whatnot, but the effort is too obvious to make it so.

The film focuses on Sylvia (Huppert), a troubled prostitute with a body full of drugs and a mind empty of memories. Sylvia struggles with her life, her past, and her unwanted daughter Laurence (Forget), who is equally determined to be part of her life. When said daughter accidentally stabs a man who is threatening Sylvia, she is forced to take the girl with her on a frantic escape. In an act of callous indifference, though, Sylvia alienates Laurence once and for all, compelling the girl to take off on her own. Left with nothing and nobody, the former prostitute takes to hitch-hiking across the country, gradually traveling toward her last hope of salvation: the husband and son she left years ago.

When Sylvia attempts to steal a car from a gas station, she is caught red-headed by Joshua (Greggory), who is ironically a car thief himself. After grudgingly agreeing to give Sylvia a ride, Joshua believes himself free of her presence, only to come across her daughter a while afterwards. The three are irrevocably snared in each other’s lives and must learn to use each other as anchors and friends. The story is a bit predictable, but even this fault could have been overlooked if developed well. Unfortunately, the development in La Vie Promise was only lukewarm.

The events in this movie had a very cut-and-paste feel, none of the segments really flowing well together. The secrets revealed were often underplayed and underexplained. While I appreciate the disregard for melodrama, I still feel that certain revelations should have been explored more fully and with a greater range of emotions. Too often the situations were unbelievable because of this nonchalance. Why does Laurence love her mother so fiercely when it is obvious that Sylvia cares very little for her? Similarly, why does Joshua feel compelled to travel all across France with these two women? If the relationships had been better developed, the actions between the characters would have been easier to accept.

I do have to give props to the opening and closing scenes of the movie, though, which were alternately wholly artistic and wholly human. The strength of these two bookends seemed to suggest that the movie’s outline was better thought out than its filler content. Given a little more flesh, La Vie Promise could have been an intriguing tale. I give it two stars for rent-worthiness and an extra half for revision potential.

—Emily Younger

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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