Hannah (Charlotte Rampling) has suffered some trouble with her husband (André Wilms) recently, and has immersed herself in acting classes to ease her mental burden. It's typical vocal and physical exercises and routines, all designed to help you present yourself better on the stage or before a camera, but is she hoping to be able to face public life better as well? She probably does not know herself, returning home to spend the evening with her husband on his last night of freedom; the only significant thing that happens is the bulb in the kitchen blows and he changes it for her. Yet the following day, he must go to prison to start his sentence...
And Hannah is finding it difficult to believe he has done anything wrong, indeed, she seems to believe he is innocent and that people will treat her just the same as before for standing by her husband, after all, they have spent most of their adult life together and she should know him better than anyone. The irony being, she did know him, just not well enough, and though the crime is not spelled out in the screenplay, director Andrea Pallaoro's drama is more about the in between moments, the aftermath of a terrible event, than it is about the event itself. What its effects have been, like ripples cast by a pebble thrown into a pond, spreading ever outwards.
Mind you, we can guess what the husband has been convicted of fairly quickly, if you have been paying attention, though this was a film that could easily slip by the viewer leaving them unaware of what the implications were, or even of what started the chain of incident that led to Hannah's ostracization. It's clear from all the signals we get that her life partner is now a convicted paedophile, and the mood is one of contained anger: bloody child molesters, they've ruined everything, creating misery, dragging down the innocents with them into a kind of permanent Hell of suspicion and paranoia. But is Hannah really complicit in the outrage, or is she one of the innocents herself?
Pallaoro must have cast Rampling for a reason, as she continued to be one of the iciest, yet charismatic performers of her generation, even at this stage in her career a commanding presence and ideal for this role in particular, as she was never one to shy away from the dark side of human nature in her characters, or the work she chose to participate in. Because she has rarely been completely sympathetic, in her art film work, at least, we are unsure of how far we should be sorry for Hannah, as at the barest minimum she has exhibited a denial of her husband's conviction that has shut her off from everyone else, including her own family. The only reason she still has a cleaning job, we surmise, is down to her employer's obliviousness about what has occurred in her life recently.
There's a scene when she is on the Metro and a woman passenger is furious about something, yelling her head off at her partner for betraying her somehow, and it is precisely how Hannah should be reacting to her husband, but she cannot bring herself to that point, she is too reserved, and worse, that would be an admission of how wrong she has been - not only in the past few months, but for decades. She is continually faced with her error of judgement, when she goes to see her grandson for the child's birthday her son tells her in no uncertain terms to get lost forever, and her gym membership is revoked without any warning, as if she were the one who was a danger to children. Although Pallaoro chose to leave the ending more or less open as to what decisions Hannah makes next, the film is so bleakly grim that you worry for her personal safety: at last, you feel something for this cold fish, who if she had been more vigilant could have prevented lives being ruined, including her own. Not a barrel of laughs, maybe not that enjoyable either, but powerful all the same. Music by Michelino Bisceglia.