For a Woman – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

March 15, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

In a well– told historical drama, the opening credits show photographs of the actors interspersed with family snaps, indicating that Pour une Femme  has personal meaning for its director, Diane Kurys (Sagan, L’anniversaire, Entre Nous), who wrote and directed this post World War II war story set in France.  

Kurys has something interesting to say about the human condition while making subtle points about the way women connect with each other.

In 1980 two adult sisters, Tania (Julie Fenner) and Anne (Sylvie Testud), sort through their recently deceased mother’s personal things at the home of their elderly father, Michel (Benoit Magimel ).  As they look through old photographs, their parents’ history unfolds.

Around 1947, Michel , a Jewish tailor and his beautiful young wife, Lena (Melanie Thierry) live in Lyon with their small daughter, Tania. Michel , originally from the Ukraine, came to France before the war.  He met Lena at Rivesalts, a French internment camp, and was able to save them both from deportation.

Later we learn that he fell in love the moment he saw her. Michel is a staunch Communist and it is his Party friends who help him acquire the premises where he plies his trade.

Michel takes in his young brother Jean (Nicholas Duvauchelle), whom he believed had perished during the war, when he turns up out of the blue.  It soon becomes obvious that Jean is in town for a special purpose, although we don’t learn what that is until much later.

It’s an old story, a younger and attractive man living in close proximity to a desirable woman he can’t have.  However there’s more at stake than lust and Jean is determined to fulfil his mission.

Lena and Michel appear to lead a fairly secular life, integrated, but not fully part of local French life.  There is a short scene where Michel notices a neighbour’s daughter dressed in white on the way to her confirmation. “Isn’t she too young to be getting married?” he wonders aloud.

Like many stories detailing the aftermath of war, it is about the rebuilding of lives and making peace with the past.


French with subtitles  2013  110mins

Starring Benoit Magimel,, Melanie Thierry, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Julie Fenner, Sylvie Testud

Directed and written by Diane Kurys


Showing in March in Sydney and Melbourne as part of the Holocaust Film Series,  Jewish International Film Festival.

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