Dave White
Summer Hours Review

Dave's Rating:

5.0

Grandma's dead. Who gets the house?

Who's In It: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jérémie Renier, Edith Scob

The Basics: An elderly French woman, the niece of a famous French artist, passes away and leaves the family home and a museum's exhibition-worth of rare antique art-furniture, paintings, books and objects to her three children. Eldest son Charles Berling wants to keep it all in the family and pass it on to future generations. Younger brother Jérémie Renier, living in China, and sister Juliette Binoche, who splits her time between New York and Japan, couldn't care less. They want a fat payout. And in the hands of cool director Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep), you've never been this concerned about the well-being of one-of-a-kind Art Nouveau vases in your life.

What's The Deal: What's most affecting about this mournful, bittersweet family drama is how willing Assayas is to shine a light on the difference between the things we place a sentimental value on, what their real value is to other people and how we sell that perception--or fail to--to others. Mostly, though, it's about how families can dissolve when the members aren't willing to value their own intangible history over practical concerns. Best of all, in spite of the sadness, it's not heavy-handed at all. Assayas never pushes his agendas on his characters or you. It's low key and lovely and will probably make you want to call your mom after you watch it.

Best Silent Commentary: The family housekeeper requests a vase as a memento of her time working for the family and Berling gives her one of the rare pieces without telling her how much it could bring at auction. She wanders off thinking she's taken something ordinary. Later, as the house is emptied and readied for sale, she visits one last time to make sure the windows are properly closed and she touches the exterior like she's patting a slowly dying pet.

What Will Come As A Shock to Assayas Fans: This isn't at all like Clean, Boarding Gate or demonlover. If you were a big fan of those cold-edged, post-human wrestling matches then this gentle drama will probably surprise you. If you hated those movies and you like a good old-fashioned French country house drama, then get in the ticket line.

Where You've Seen Grandma Before: She's Edith Scob, star of 1960's Eyes Without a Face.

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