Movie review: Anatomy Of A Fall

French Alps

Sigh. I asked the folks at Spectrum 8 in Albany whether the film Anatomy Of A Fall was coming to the cinema. Evidently, I missed its brief appearance, and I didn’t even remember seeing the trailer. So I watched it on Amazon Prime, a suboptimal choice, at home during the last week in January, but so it goes.

As one can discern from the graphic, someone, in this case, Samuel (Samuel Theis), a writer, has taken a fatal fall from a secluded dwelling in the French Alps. But, to paraphrase Richard and Linda Thompson, Did he jump, or was he pushed?

If he were pushed, it would almost have been by his wife, Sandra (Sandra Hüller). There was a witness, perhaps, their eleven-year-old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), but he may not be a reliable witness.

As the authorities pull at the onion that was Sandra and Samuel’s complicated and conflicted relationship, they accuse her of his death.

This is NOT Law and Order

At this point, it becomes a procedural thriller. If you’re used to the American trial system, this is a different thing, interesting in its own right. Sandra is defended by an old friend, Vincent (Swann Arlaud), who gives her sage advice, which she sometimes disregards. L’avocat général (Antoine Reinartz) is a relentless prosecutor.

As we learn more about the tensions that Sandra and Samuel experience through flashbacks, we remain unsure of her guilt. As sometimes happens in the US, the press is busy dissecting Sandra’s foibles. The ambiguity is deliberate and makes the  150-minute film seem shorter.

Sandra Hüller, who I was unfamiliar with until I saw her in  The Zone Of Interest the week before, is deserving of her Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  The screenplay, by Arthur Harari and the film director Justine Triet, worked well for me. It received 96% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and the negative comments – “predictable”? – I was not feeling.

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