Review: And Yet We Were All Blind
- Béatrice Pollet delivers a captivating legal thriller on the subject of motherhood, exploring a seemingly unfathomable act
"Mrs Claire Morel needs us in order to understand what has happened. If we don’t try to get to the bottom of this with her, we won’t move forwards." It’s a very strange affair - a game of hide and seek with oneself and potentially with others – that’s explored in Béatrice Pollet’s fascinating film And Yet We Were All Blind [+see also:
interview: Béatrice Pollet
film profile], which was unveiled in competition at the 26th Tallin Black Nights Festival.
Based on real events, the French filmmaker’s second feature opens (after a short prologue exuding family happiness) with an evening which is wholly out of the ordinary for our couple, Claire (Maud Wyler) and Thomas (Grégoire Colin), who are parents to two little girls tucked up fast asleep in their beds. Upon returning home late, the latter, an engineer at the National Forest Office, finds his wife unresponsive and covered in blood, only to then find himself, several hours later (and in a total state of incomprehension), "in police custody, suspected of abetting the murder of a person under 15 years old". The reason, which he swiftly reveals to Claire’s lawyer friend Sophie (Géraldine Nakache), is that "they found a new-born on the container opposite our house. They’re saying it’s Claire’s child – It’s madness! – It can’t be her baby. I’d know if my wife was pregnant!"
From this unexpected event onwards, and the protagonists’ resulting devastating shock (Claire is imprisoned and faces a life sentence), the film methodically untangles what turns out to be a denial of pregnancy and digs deep to get to the root cause of the tragedy. We see questions asked by the judge (Pascal Demolon), reconstructions, attacks by the prosecution ("your abandonment looks a lot like a fairly well-disguised case of infanticide"), psychiatric evaluations to assess levels of responsibility, discussions between Claire and Thomas revealing the couple’s intimacy, and between Claire and Sophie to prepare the former’s defence, possible explanations linked to family set-ups and ghosts (unconscious loyalties which bind us to our ancestors), the weight of public opinion (notably anonymous letters along the lines of "the death penalty for these sluts, abortion isn’t enough for them"), Claire’s gradual resurfacing… Over a period of several months, And Yet We Were All Blind probes a mystery bordering on science-fiction, creaking open a door onto the links between motherhood and our psyches.
Empathic yet sober, skilfully managing suspense without resorting to gimmicks (based on a brilliant screenplay penned by the director herself), and acted and directed with great accuracy (Georges Lechaptois’ crepuscular photography is also deserving of a mention), And Yet We Were All Blind is a fascinating, incredibly human and eminently feminist film, which lifts the veil, to everyone’s educational benefit, on a seemingly unfathomable act, even for women who live through such experiences themselves.
(Translated from French)
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