To onlookers enjoying a day on the beach, Rose, Lili, and Hélène appear to be close girlfriends. Underneath their contentment is a turbulent past also experienced by other Jewish people who were fortunate to escape Auschwitz.
À La Vie captures a time in the 1960s when the Jewish population were still learning how to cope after their genocide survival. When the friends reunite at a beachy vacation spot in Berck, France, they approach such subject matter with sensitive apprehension; struggling with decisions to either smother the past or voice their distress. The movie takes shape as an indirect character study; not necessarily focusing on individual players but rather on personal feelings many are still enduring.
Jean-Jacques Zilbermann thorny drama À La Vie is a top-notch film. More specifically, it’s a wonderment for those who could lose themselves in a library for hours reading about history, or for movie goers who mainly look for notable costume and art design. Zilbermann’s eye for period detail transports the audience to a summer in the 1960s, while the story is considerably anchored by the film’s principal performers (Julie Depardieu, Johanna ter Steege, Suzanne Clément). The film only becomes problematic when a rote love triangle and a heavy Klezmer score give À La Vie a rising schmaltz factor.
With the summer approaching and blockbusters quickly filling theatres, À La Vie’s respectable substance and lazy river approach makes for fine counter-programming.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie