Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Midwife (opens August 11th at the Capitol Theatre)

[THE MIDWIFE opens in Cleveland on Friday August 11th exclusively at the Capitol Theatre.]

Review by Zoe Brown
Martin Provost pairs up the grande dames of French cinema in the compelling character drama, THE MIDWIFE (Sage Femme). Appearing together for the first time on the silver screen, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot portray Beatrice and Claire, women bound by the past, and linked again to reconcile in the present.

Claire, the reserved and lackluster midwife of a soon to be closing maternity clinic, is content with a routine life of delivering babies, gardening, and mothering her young adult son. The unexpected call from Beatrice disrupts Claire’s dull existence, begins the process of forgiveness and reconciliation between the two, and becomes the impetus for Claire to learn how to live freely.

Because Claire enters Beatrice’s haphazard, and transient world reluctantly, I became curious about their connection and why Claire is so compelled to pay Beatrice a visit. They loved the same man, Claire’s father, a former French swimming champion whose heart was broken by his vivacious and indulgent mistress, Beatrice. They obviously meant something to each other despite the pain Beatrice caused and the years that passed since they had seen one another.

Beatrice’s illness brings her to Claire, seeking respite and comfort to help her cope with the uncertainty that comes with illness. Claire avails herself to Beatrice after surgery and during recovery, yet Claire is the one in need of Beatrice, her zest for life, ability to laugh, and indulge in a little pleasure. Beatrice, in a classy Catherine Deneuve way, insists on eating prime rib, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, and gambling even with her illness.

Both actresses portrayed their characters methodically; I enjoyed watching their exchange, especially when Claire carefully massages Beatrice as they talk matter of factly, a tender mother-daughter like moment. Claire's strained relationship with her mother is mentioned, but it is Beatrice who shows her adoration.

Beatrice and Claire’s relationship as the focal point of the movie, overshadowing the sub plots, Claire’s work as a midwife in the run-down clinic and newly found love interest, Paul. The midwife storyline is the most interesting of the two subplots. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the wonderful and delicate nature of childbirth and the care needed to bring life into the world.

As I watched THE MIDWIFE, I contemplated the theme of life and death often, the quality of our existence between our beginning and end, including the relationships we form with unlikely individuals. If you like to character dramas, I recommend THE MIDWIFE because of the two Catherine’s acting prowess and the convincing story they tell. Subtitled, 4 out of 4 stars

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