Amour ***½/4 – a movie review by James Berardinelli
Films can be tremendous vehicles for escapism – paths to freeing oneself from worldly concerns and considerations. They can also be a means of getting in touch with essential elements of humanity such as love, sacrifice, and mortality.
Those three aspects of the so-called “human experience” form the foundation of Michael Haneke’s emotionally challenging Amour. Although not claiming to be based on a true story, Amour draws on details from Haneke’s life. Many viewers will find echoes of their grandparents, parents, or even themselves in these characters.
In principle, I have no problem with melodrama. Many of my favorite films fit snugly into that category but it’s the kind of thing Haneke apparently detests. Amour is emotionally powerful, but attains its power through a spare, non-manipulative chronicle of events in the lives of an elderly couple. At no time is an attempt made to wring tears from the audience. There may be crying but that’s because there’s a universal sadness to the story. The reason viewers are apt to react strongly to Amour is because it hits close to home. Its realism is its most obvious strength.
Watch the trailer