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NAMUR 2023

Review: Suddenly


- Thomas Bidegain returns with his second feature film as a director, a remarriage drama valiantly carried by Mélanie Thierry and Gilles Lellouche as they also fight against the elements

Review: Suddenly
Gilles Lellouche and Mélanie Thierry in Suddenly

After Cowboys [+see also:
film review
film profile
, his impressive directorial feature debut, Thomas Bidegain unveiled this week in a world premiere at the Namur International French-Language Film Festival (FIFF) his new film, Suddenly [+see also:
interview: Thomas Bidegain
film profile
, freely adapted from the eponymous novel by Isabelle Autissier

Ben and Laura go on a last chance trip: a last chance to see the world before it ends, but also to save their relationship, as we soon realise. This sailing trip to the ends of the world pushes them to their limits, without them realising, until an accident occurs. Pushed by their curiosity to land on a desert island, they are surprised by a storm and forced to spend the night. When they wake up, their boat has disappeared. Very soon, survival becomes their main concern. They have to organise themselves, support and help each other. In these extreme conditions, as the cold polar weather sets in, tensions rise and emotions are intensified: anger, fear, and hopelessness come to trouble their fragile peace. Ben and Laura will have to do things they never imagined, and answer questions they never thought they would have to ask themselves: is it better to survive alone, or to die together?

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By placing his characters in a most hostile arena, where instincts (sometimes) take precedence over feelings, Suddenly exposes the mechanism of this couple — not what constitutes its foundations, since the couple is already established when the film begins, but rather what justifies its survival. The viewer indeed worries about the survival of two things here: that of the characters, who are attacked from all sides; and in a less straightforward way, that of this relationship, also forced to justify its existence.

Thomas Bidegain strips the relationship of its adjacent social dimension to get to the heart of it, and to understand what allows it to last beyond conflicts, disagreements and disappointments. The protagonists will discover the essence of their attachment to one another and of their love, but they will also discover what could put it in jeopardy. In a welcome swap of gender expectations, Laura’s apparent vulnerability will make way for astonishing resilience and tenacity, embodied by Mélanie Thierry’s powerful performance. Meanwhile Ben, who initially seems in charge and in control, panics when faced with the seriousness of their predicament, Gilles Lellouche’s performance imbued with the nuance necessary to convey the fragility of his character’s position. 

In parallel, the filmmaker dares to make an adventure film, but one where the adventure is of a bitter kind, full of latent dangers often more insidious than spectacular. He reproduces with great skill the structure of the classical desert island-set survival film, but away from the tropics, throwing his characters in the cold polar weather, and transforms the remarriage comedy into a drama. In doing so, he also modifies the bourgeois domestic scene by setting it in an arctic desert, where the couple’s quarrel is literally a matter of life and death.

Suddenly was produced by Trésor Films (France) and co-produced by StudioCanal (France), France 2 Cinéma (France), Artémis Productions (Belgium) and Truenorth (Iceland). International sales are handled by StudioCanal, as is the film’s French distribution, with a release set for 6 December.

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(Translated from French)

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