'The Truth': The new Hirokazu Kore-eda film shows another side to the Japanese director in its subtlety

The film explores a fraught mother-daughter relationship, starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke

Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke in The Truth. Courtesy 3B productions

If you're coming into The Truth expecting a Hirokazu Kore-eda-style drama, you'll be disappointed.

As with the Japanese filmmaker's work Like Father, Like Son and Shoplifters – the latter of which won the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival – Kore-eda is still exploring the more grating and fragile aspects of family relationships in his latest outing.

In his other films, Kore-eda has unflinchingly worked to put up a great, greasy humanist mirror for us to examine ourselves under an uncomfortable light.

Yet that's not the case with The Truth, which was released online on Tuesday, April 29, by Front Row Entertainment. Here, Kore-eda goes easy on us, hitting us less powerfully than we know he can. But that's not to say the film fails to live up to his past works. Its subtle impact and momentum are simply different than what we've come to expect from him.

Set in France, The Truth is Kore-eda's first film outside of Japan.

It was an interesting move from the director, as he not only stepped outside of his comfort zone, but he did so with a French-speaking film, and with a star-studded cast featuring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke.

Despite its star power, however, it will take about 20 minutes for viewers to acclimate to the film's momentum.

Not because it is going at breakneck speed, but because it'll take a little time to get a feel of the film's rhythm and its steady yet unhurried pace. Once you're used to that, it becomes much more of an enjoyable watch. You'll find yourself inextricably tangled in this odd, messy but calm family drama, and it becomes clear that Kore-eda has managed to get some truly memorable performances out of its cast.

And as impeccable as all the performances are, it is Deneuve who wins the spotlight.

The French actress, who has been in more than 130 films in the last six decades, is right at home in her role as the larger-than-life movie diva Fabienne Dangeville. (Interesting aside: Fabienne is Deneuve’s middle name.)

The Truth explores the fraught relationship Dangeville has with her daughter, Lumir (Binoche).

Lumir, her husband (Hawke) and their daughter (Clementine Grenier) come to visit Dangeville after the 70-year-old actress publishes her memoir, titled La Verite (The Truth).

However, Lumir soon finds out that her mother has stretched and reshaped the truth in her book, and confronts her for being a self-absorbed and largely absent parent.

“My memories, my book,” Dangeville says nonchalantly when her daughter challenges her with its contents.

The film is layered with stories. In the backdrop of the mother-daughter relationship is the mysterious figure of Sarah Mondavan, a deceased actress who was Dangeville’s contemporary and from whom Dangeville stole an important, career-building role.

There is also the science-fiction film that Dangeville is in the midst of filming, entitled Memories of My Mother. It is about a mother who doesn't age, and her daughter, who soon becomes older than her, which stands as a reflection to Dangeville's own relationship with her offspring. And finally there's a fairy tale that Lumir reads to her daughter about a witch with a stone-cold heart, which also harks back to the main storyline, with Dangeville being compared to the witch who turned her husband into a turtle.

If you're looking for a unhurried comedy-drama to watch on an early Friday afternoon with some truly exceptional acting, then The Truth certainly fits the bill

The Truth is categorised as a drama, but to pigeonhole it in this genre would do a disservice to the film. Yes, it is a slow-burner with a restrained plot line, but it is also dappled in wit, with some scenes that will make you genuinely laugh out loud. Dangeville's acerbic humour will catch you off guard, cutting through some of the most tense moments of the story. The scenes she shares with her wild-haired ex-husband, who shows up to her house unannounced, are especially enjoyable to watch.

Don't expect to be sitting at the edge of your seat, though. Rather, if you're looking for a unhurried comedy-drama to watch on an early Friday afternoon with some truly exceptional acting and a plot you won't have to chase with a hooked finger, then The Truth certainly fits the bill.

The Truth is available to buy and rent on iTunes, Google Play, beIN On Demand, OSN Store as well as all local platforms including Du, Etisalat E-Vision, Ooredoo, Vodafone, and OmanTel