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MARK OF AN ANGEL

Director: SAFY NEBBOU

FRANCE • 2008 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 95 MIN


TWO OF FRANCE’S GREATEST ACTRESSES GO TOE TO TOE IN THIS PERSUASIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, WHICH TURNS THE EVERYDAY DETAILS OF FAMILY LIFE INTO HIGHLY-CHARGED CONFRONTATION WHEN AN INNOCENT CHILD IS SUBJECTED TO AN OBSESSIVE TUG-OF-LOVE BETWEEN WARRING MOTHERS.

Catherine Frot (last seen as the neurotic virtuoso pianist in The Page Turner) may not as yet have the international stellar cachet of, say, an Isabelle Huppert, but she’s an absolutely riveting performer, and certainly gets her teeth into the role of Elsa, a pharmacy assistant going through a stressful divorce, who’s stopped in her tracks when collecting her small son from a children’s party. It’s clear she feels a strong, unspoken connection with a little girl in a fairy costume, and before long she’s made the acquaintance of her mother, Claire (Sandrine Bonnaire). Since her son’s best pals with Elsa’s boy, Claire doesn’t initially pick up on anything wrong, but soon she’s worryingly aware that her own daughter’s the focus of the other woman’s unnerving attentions.

Although there’s a hint in the title, the reason for Frot’s single-minded behaviour is revealed in such a deft manner it would be a shame to steal director Safy Nebbou’s thunder. What’s especially impressive about his second feature however, is the way its revelations (based on a true story, would you believe?) don’t so much give the game away but actually increase the story’s psychological complexity. While its Hitchcockian set-pieces are gripping and unsettling, and Bonnaire’s performance gets ever more layered as events progress, the film’s probing of the ultimate meaning of motherhood gives it a thought-provoking moral substance to go with the frissons. — Trevor Johnston.

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