The film is very atypical for the auteur, whose most recent film Black Ocean[+see also: trailer film profile] premiered at Venice and Toronto in 2010, in that it is the director’s first feature that isn’t an adaptation of previously existing material but rather an original screenplay inspired by some incidents in her own life.
La Tendresse starts with a gorgeous widescreen opening shot of two very distant skiers going down an immense white slope. The two clearly very talented skiers slowly descend from the top right corner toward the lower left, only accompanied by the sound of their equipment on the fresh snow.
What happens immediately after is what will set in motion everything that is to follow: the male skier hits a tree and breaks a leg.
It is revealed that the hospitalized skier, Jack (Adrien Jolivet), is actually a ski instructor and the son of a Belgium-based couple, Frans (Olivier Gourmet) et Lisa (Marilyne Canto), who divorced 15 years earlier but who drive together from Belgium to Switzerland to pick up their son and drive him home after insurances refuse to pay out because of a technicality.
What follows is a road movie in which two middle-aged adults who knew each other well but haven’t really spoken for years reconnect, before they arrive in Switzerland, where they look after their clearly very kind son, who is dating a cute colleague (Margaux Chatelier).
The title, which literally translates as “tenderness,” is well-chosen, in that the film is always more about feelings than action; indeed, the only intensely dramatic scene is the ski accident itself, which is kept rigorously off-screen. The trio of actors all give wonderfully inhabited and evocative yet subtle performances, making the film an intimate but heartfelt look at a family’s interactions, joys and regrets.
The film was produced by Man’s Films Productions, A.S.A.P. Films and Neue Pegasos Film, in co-production with ZDF/ARTE, Rhône-Alpes Cinéma and Belgian broadcaster RTBF. Doc & Film International handles international sales.
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