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CANNES 2024 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: Visiting Hours


- CANNES 2024: Patricia Mazuy explores an unlikely friendship between two women from very different social classes, played brilliantly by Isabelle Huppert and Hafsia Herzi

Review: Visiting Hours
Hafsia Herzi and Isabelle Huppert in Visiting Hours

"Is it mistakes that we make in our lives, or choices? – We do what we can". When you lead an idle, material existence which looks pretty perfect from the outside, you can allow yourself the luxury of philosophical-existentialist questioning. But if you have to slave away to feed your children and take hard blows without any kind of buffer, it’s clearly an altogether different story, despite your shared humanity. It’s this divide which separates the different social classes that French filmmaker Patricia Mazuy has decided to examine by eliminating the distance between two women in Visiting Hours [+see also:
interview: Patricia Mazuy
film profile
, a movie discovered in the Directors’ Fortnight within the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Smooth and sophisticated, the film is carried by its two wonderful lead actresses and also presents as an understated essay on the act of lying and the passing of time.

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"I’ve got absolutely nothing to do. Why don’t you stay?". Alma (Isabelle Huppert) and Mina (Hafsia Herzi) cross paths in the visiting room of the prison where both their husbands are incarcerated, one of them - a spinal neurologist – for hitting two women with his car (one of whom died, the other ended up paralysed) and the other for his involvement in jewellery robberies. Alma notices Mina, who lives 400 kilometres away and who’s quick to put on an act ("I feel dizzy") to try (in vain, because the prison doesn’t do anyone any favours) not to miss out on her visits.

Amused, our unashamedly upper middle class (white) woman Alma decides, on an impulse, to make an exception to the rule of nigh-on opposed social classes having no reason to get along together: she invites Mina (an Arab) to stay with her for the night in her magnificent town house filled with paintings which are so expensive they’re basically investments. It marks the beginning of an unlikely friendship: Alma soon finds work in a dry cleaner’s in a private hospital for Mina, who moves into the former’s opulent residence with her two small children. A funny and cheerful little family takes shape, with each of the women operating as a mirror for the other, opening up new spaces for self-awareness and for reflection upon their existence. But the past eventually catches up with Mina…

Sowing the seeds for a melodrama which goes above and beyond a metaphorical analysis of the social classes (the automatic disdain felt by Alma’s wealthy friends, the Slovakian domestic cleaning lady, the notion of "credible credentials", etc.) and a reversal of stereotypes ("we’re not going to start lying. You’re not the only one who’s allowed to"), Visiting Hours is first and foremost a psychological film from a female perspective, peppered with insignificant little moments and discussions which carefully spin a yarn unspooling around the theme of mutual release. Injecting sporadic doses of humour (courtesy of Isabelle Huppert), the filmmaker delivers a subtle and understated work, enveloped in Simon Beaufils’ smooth photography and perfectly in keeping with her previous feature films, which refused to take the easy route and which pored over the everyday to explore new genres through an incredibly personal approach.

Visiting Hours is produced by Rectangle Productions and Picseyes, in co-production with Arte France Cinéma. World sales are entrusted to Les Films du Losange.

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(Translated from French)

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