Incredibly tedious and frustrating period drama from the late Claude Miller, in which Audrey Tautou plays the titular heroine, who is married off to a local landowner only to find her existence suffocating and depressing. There are numerous opportunities throughout the film for the narrative to expand, break free or otherwise develop into something intriguing – or at least interesting – but each time, without fail, it retreats back into the shadows of languid, stuffy dreariness.
Therese’s childhood friend, now sister-in-law, has a secret affair with a Portuguese commoner, only for her family to lock her away until she too can be married off. Therese is stuck between her loyalty to her husband and her compassion for her friend’s quest for love, but the film never allows Therese to take a heroic, duplicitous of even cowardly stance. She begins tampering with her husband’s medication, fantasizes about burning their pine forest down, but can bring herself to do nothing. Eventually, the weight of her predicament – or perhaps the audience’s venomous frustration at a film whose 100 minutes feels infinitely longer – causes her to fall dangerously ill.
On occasion, this kind of constricted drama of manners can produce some bold, impressive performances. But not here. Audrey Tautou is irritatingly bland, frail and uninteresting, Anais Demoustier fails to make Anne into anything beyond the most one-note of victims, and Gilles Lellouche isn’t so much a brute as a bore. The result is an agonising ordeal that goes nowhere, very slowly.