Cinema Review: Looking for Hortense



DIR: Pascal Bonitzer • WRI: Agathe de Sacy, Pascal Bonitzer • PRO: Ben Said • DOP: Romain Winding • ED: Elise Fievet  • CAST: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristen Scott Thomas, Claude Rich, Isabelle Carre

Pascal Bonitzer’s new Parisian romantic drama stars Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas as a dysfunctional middle-aged couple. A film that features some fantastic performances, convincing dialogue, absorbing sound and some beautiful visuals is let down in one crucial area, the story. For all its style, Looking for Hortense ends up having very little to say.

Damien Hauer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a mid-life-crisis-bound intellectual whose strained relationship with the chain smoking Iva (Kristen Scott Thomas) is being drawn out for the sake of their 12-year-old son. When Zorica, an illegal alien and friend of Iva’s, is threatened with deportation Damien promises to ask his estranged father (Claude Rich), a state councillor, to intervene.

Damien spends the first half of the film trying to track down his busy father for a 5-minute conversation. It is as riveting as it sounds. If your friend told you, over a café au lait, that all of this happened to him you would nod along and think it vaguely interesting. However, if he then said he was going to make a film from this story you would wonder why anyone else would care. No doubt some will applaud the anti-Hollywood slow pace of Looking for Hortense, but while it is certainly not “Hollywood”, there is not much payoff for the humdrum story.

There seems to have been an attempt to forgo depth in pursuit of naturalism and, to its credit, in this it succeeds. Strong performances create a convincing portrayal of a dysfunctional family, and the protagonist’s predicament, while uninteresting, is entirely believable.

The cinematography by Romain Winding makes Paris look truly beautiful, which might get you thinking about your next weekend break as the story meanders slowly to its underwhelming conclusion. The music from Alexei Aigui is fantastic, giving those who can overlook the lack of substance enough style to chew on.

Pascal Bonitzer made his mark as a screenwriter for the likes of André Téchiné and Jacques Rivette, but his latest directorial venture offers nothing new and feels disappointingly light.

Glenn Caldecott

Rated 12A,

100 mins
Looking for Hortense is released on 9th August 2013


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