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Film review: Claire Darling


French actress Catherine Deneuve is at the peak of her powers in this gentle film about complex attachments and family conflicts, writes Susan Mitchell.

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I’ve been a devoted fan of Catherine Deneuve since I saw her in the classic films The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Belle de Jour (1967). She was sexy, beautiful, understated and totally seductive. So memorable, in fact, that 30 years later I was able to dredge from my schoolgirl French a request for a “parapluie” when it was raining in Paris.

Deneuve went on to star with Susan Sarandon in the erotic horror film Hunger (1983). When Sarandon was asked later if she was uncomfortable in their sex scenes, she replied: “Who wouldn’t want to go to bed with Catherine Deneuve?”

Now, in 2019, the French actress is 75 and playing a woman of that age. All I can say is that she gives mature women hope.

This is an interesting and charming film about a glamorous millionaire named Claire Darling (Deneuve), who wakes up one beautiful sunny morning and decides she is going to sell all her precious possessions.

Why? Because she is not well and has been having mental lapses; she also has a strong intuition that she is going to die that day at midnight.

The film follows the course of the day, and includes flashbacks – triggered by the various possessions she is trying to sell – about her life and her family.

Director Julie Bertuccelli – who also co-wrote the script, adapted from the novel Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale, by American author Lydia Rutledge – filmed the movie on the real-life estate of her grandmother. Darling’s daughter is played by Chiara Mastroianni, the real-life daughter of Catherine Deneuve. Now that is a true family effort.

Claire Darling is a gentle, subtle film about a mature woman’s confused emotions, complex attachments, family conflicts and all the treasured objects that trigger such memories. The ending is a ripper.

How wonderful that we can still see an actress like Deneuve at the peak of her powers and experience. Let’s hope that, like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, she will continue to explore her many talents.

Claire Darling is currently showing at Palace Nova Cinemas.

*A heads up for the National Theatre of Britain’s live streaming of Arthur Miller’s classic All My Sons, starring Sally Field and Bill Pullman, at Palace Nova Eastend this Saturday and Sunday (June 15 and 16). The word is it’s brilliant.

Dr Susan Mitchell is a film critic, an author, and broadcaster.

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