Farewell to the Night is a French drama directed by André Téchiné, which tells the story of Muriel (Catherine Deneuve) who successfully farms horses, owns an almond plantation and is a loving grandmother. Her grandson Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein) comes to visit her one final time before he moves to Canada, but during his stay Muriel learns that Alex has some dark secrets.
During his stay Muriel finds out that Alex is engaged to his childhood friend Lila (Oulaya Amamra) who works as a nurse’s aid and also assists Muriel on the farm. But what Muriel doesn’t know is that Lila has radicalised Alex who is now a Muslim convert, and the two are gathering up enough money to join ISIS in Syria. Muriel is obviously concerned as she learns more about Alex and even though he doesn’t get angry at Muriel, he does get a little defensive when she does ask questions in regards to his upcoming plans.
Farewell to the Night is a film that comes across at too hard to be clever and dramatic. The character of Alex appears to have a chip on his shoulder throughout the whole film but you never find out what his motives are or why he is doing what he is doing. In the film it is mentioned that his mother has passed away and that he has become estranged from his father. Alex doesn’t know the full extent of his mother’s death and has no interest in having a reconciliation with his father and his new family, so that doesn’t come across as a motivator either. The character wasn’t written well nor was interesting, in my opinion, which didn’t give Kacey Mottet Klein much to work with.
There is also a questionable scene where Muriel attends a family lunch and during the festivities a young girl does a dance to Chandelier by SIA, wearing an open jacket and her bra which seemed very out of place. You have to question it’s inclusion to the film because the girl isn’t seen again for the remainder of the film, so it all just seemed very irrelevant and questionable as well.
Probably the best thing about this film is the performance from Catherine Deneuve. She plays the part of the concerned grandmother very well. Throughout the entire film she is happy that Alex is visiting her and she does everything that she can to be accommodating and supportive of him. Unfortunately her amazing performance isn’t enough to carry this entire film, as most of the other acting performances fall flat. The filming location on the farm with the plants and horses looked really nice and during some of the more bleak moments of the film, the scenes took place on the muddier parts of the farm, which was a nice touch.
Farewell to the Night is a film that takes on a challenging subject matter and does so in a non-judgemental way but sadly the story and the characters are one-dimensional and for the most part, falls flat.
The film is screening in Australia as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival. For more information, visit: affrenchfilmfestival.org