'Claire Darling' really does leave you asking for more - no really, what was with the elephant clock? Why the ongoing resentment? The priest? With such a great foundation, the film fails to deliver on answering so many crucial plot points. Instead, it relies on a certain naïvety, given the glaring and occasionally refreshing imperfections of the cinematography and story. Ebbing and flowing with all the charm of French cinema, the narrative unfolds through flashbacks and within quirky settings of fairs, old houses and churches to navigate secrets, family, time and death.
Claire Darling (Catherine Deneuve, 'The Midwife') is an old recluse. Convinced she is living her last day, she begins to sell the trinkets and antiques belonging to her, each one serving as a reminder of memories passed. Confronted by the old lady's sudden return to society and impromptu garage sale, friends call on Claire's daughter Marie (Chiara Mastroianni, 'The Pink Panther') to come and console her mother and deal with her memory decay.
Julie Bertuccelli wrote and directed the film. Truth be told, it has all the makings of something great: characters with intriguing arcs, mystery, love and comical old people. The story follows the effects of age on the mind and has a great premise to connect with audience members; losing our memory is something that we all fear. Bertuccelli's narrative is intricate and strong to begin with, setting up fantastic mystery boxes to be explored and answered throughout the story. It was disheartening to sit through the film, hopeful and expectant to find solutions, only to be denied the satisfaction of unresolved problems and questions. Sure, sometimes it's refreshing and a little controversial not to have closure. In this case, it's more confusing. Adding to this perplexity is the alternating timelines often placed in non-chronological order, forcing you to adjust to the constant and unclarified transitions. In praise of this, the result of abstract flashbacks is the eventual realisation of what some memories are alluding to. Although, not every flashback was crucial and overall did more harm than good for understanding the narrative.
It was disheartening to sit through a film, hopeful and expectant to find solutions, only to be denied the satisfaction of unresolved problems and questions.
As the minutes ticked by, I sat hoping to gain understanding of certain elements of the plot - until the ending left me shocked and in disbelief, and not the good kind. The climactic finale of the film was out of the blue and highly unrealistic. With mouth open, staring at my neighbour, we couldn't help but look at each other and wonder - seriously? Did that just happen? All in all, 'Claire Darling' is a challenging film with all the right elements and all the wrong delivery. I was willing to wait patiently on the basis that it felt like something good was coming. The film keeps building and embellishing - but it's as though time ran out and in a quick attempt to finish the film, they resolved the third act with a deux ex machina, and failed to account for everything else.