Families! What is it about being under the same roof as your parents, your sister or brother that can send otherwise calm adults into a spin?
Alexandra Lecl?’s debut feature reminds us that while we choose our friends, we cannot choose our families. And while we may run, we cannot hide -“ they will always track you down, crawl under your skin until you resort to the kind of hair-pulling, face-slapping behaviour of a six-year-old who missed nap time.
Isabelle Huppert (I Heart Huckabees, Eight Women) and The Dinner Game‘s Catherine Frot are Martine and Louise, two sisters who couldn’t be more different.
Martine (Huppert) is glamorous but self-absorbed, controlling and remote; she detests her husband Pierre (Fran?s Berl?d) but not his upper-class lifestyle. It’s a far cry from her poor provincial roots which she tries to keep from sophisticated Parisian friends, Sophie (Brigitte Catillon) and Geraldine (Christiane Millet).
But her younger beautician sister Louise never left the provinces -“ that is until now. An aspiring writer with a manuscript under her arm, Louise arrives in Paris one Saturday for a three-day visit to see her big sister and meet a publisher interested in her novel A Man, A Real Man. Catherine Frot, wrapped in a ridiculous Paddington Bear outfit, plays Louise with a big heart and an awkward, wide-eyed innocence that is like chalk down the blackboard to Martine. Louise trails her sister through Paris, smiling, tripping and forever apologising along the way.
Martine could think of more preferable forms of torture. Her cold impatience with her gawky sister is peppered with audible sighs and eye-rolling. But deep down, Martine, despite finding Louise so gauche, is envious. Louise has an amazing opportunity before her and Martine has -“ well, all the icing but none of the cake.
What begins as a modern quirky French comedy tumbles too soon into much darker terrain. We are barely through our choc-tops when Martine erupts into a monster of Medusan proportions. As Martine’s resentment grows, the cracks in her bourgeois exterior widen and we discover some painful truths about the two sisters’ childhood.
Huppert’s miserable Martine is superb with an off-the-cuff performance of a woman discovering she’s more like her mother than she’d like. Me And My Sister is challenging viewing -“ Martine’s cruel and sometimes violent treatment of those around her is hard to watch. Yet Lecl?’s script, with its autobiographical influences, is so close to the bone and the cast give such solid performances.
Let’s just say, when you see Me And My Sister take a friend, not family.