Those Who Remain Film Review

Those Who Remain Film Review
"It was all so sordid," Bertrand (Vincent Lindon) confesses to Lorraine (Emmanuelle Devos), referring to their sexual encounter in a hospital parking lot. His wife is battling a terminal case of breast cancer, which explains his guilty conscience, while Lorraine's boyfriend is undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Lorraine responds to Bertrand pragmatically, stating that if there is a looming tragedy it is not the fact that they slept together.

It is reasonable to infer that Lorraine represents the view of Anne Le Ny, who made her debut as a writer-director with this film. Le Ny aims for empathy rather than condemnation. "Those Who Remain" is unusually chaste for a French drama whose subject is adultery. The film foregrounds the emotional bond between Bertrand and Lorraine rather than its physical manifestation.

Le Ny's approach does not mean the film is overburdened with dialogue, however. Bertrand is an introvert who reads books on public transport rather than interact with his fellow commuters. While not inarticulate, he holds his emotions in check. In several scenes, Bertrand is on the verge of revealing himself to Lorraine but holds back. Actor Vincent Lindon is a master at this. Lindon plays similar scenes, with superb emotional resonance, in Stephane Brize's "Mademoiselle Chambon" (2009). In both roles, Lindon portrays married men who cannot break away from their conventional paths.

There are flashes of humor in Le Ny's film that are obtained without trivializing the subject matter. Lindon gets to deliver the funniest line to one of the clerks in the hospital gift shop. She is a trainee who has been told to discuss only the weather with patients and their relatives. After weeks of this, Bertrand finally asks if her family is full of farmers or maybe sailors due to her obsession with all things meteorological. There is also a visual joke involving Bertrand's young nephew. He takes his first steps at a family barbeque but the adults are too busy bickering to catch it.

The most remarkable element of "Those Who Remain" is the fact that we never see the two cancer patients onscreen. The film also plays with gender roles as Lorraine is the character least troubled by her sexual liaison with Bertrand and chooses not to act the victim. She is willing to admit her flaws, confessing that she is disgusted by the thought of her boyfriend's colostomy. Bertrand's behavior is presented ambiguously. His final decision regarding his relationship with Lorraine could be interpreted as altruistic or unconscionable. Le Ny lets the viewer decide.

"Those Who Remain" ("Ceux Qui Restent") was released in 2007. The film is in French with English subtitles. It is currently not streaming on any platform in the US but is available on DVD. I watched "Those Who Remain" at my own expense. Review posted on 5/7/2021.

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