Hold Me Tight (‘Serre moi fort’): Film Review | Cannes 2021

Hold Me Tight (‘Serre moi fort’): Film Review | Cannes 2021

A mother suddenly finds herself very, very far away from her husband and children in Hold me strong, a superbly filmed souvenir of French actor and director Mathieu Amalric. Although probably most famous for his performance as the baddie Bond in Quantum of Solace, a man with cloistered syndrome at Julian Schnabel’s The diving bell and the butterfly and a string of wild-haired French intellectuals in other art house hits, Amalric has an esteemed second career as a director in his own right. He even landed a coveted spot in the Cannes competition with his 2010 feature film, On tour, set in the world of American burlesque, and now he’s back in Cannes with his sixth feature film, premiered in the Cannes Premieres section, rightly (but unimaginatively).

Hold me strong stars Phantom thread Vicky Krieps in a tour-de-force performance as a woman who has to digest the increasing distance between herself and her family members, who seem to be very close and yet so far away. This expertly judged French drama will appeal to boutique retailers or platforms with a penchant for art house quality food.

Hold me strong

The bottom line

An impressively filmed and executed piece of memory.

Hold Me Tight

Venue of events: Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Premieres)
Cast: Vicky Krieps, Arieh Worthalter
Writer-director: Mathieu Amalric, script based on the play I’m coming back from afar by Claudine Galea

1 hour 37 minutes

Hold Me Tight Movie Review

The screenwriter and director Amalric, who does not appear on screen, adapts a work by Claudine Galea here. But from the first moments, in which Camille (Krieps) sneaks out of the bucolic family home at dawn and we meet her on the road and her husband Marc (Belgian actor Arieh Worthalter) and his tweens getting up for the day, there is not a hint of stagnation in the proceedings.

The way editor Francois Gedigier (who is married to director Arnaud Desplechin’s sister, whose films Amalric frequently stars in) stands between the home front and Camille’s near-desperate escape is something to behold. It propels the entire show forward with a dash of crazy and dizzying energy that helps put the viewer in Camille’s mental space. We still don’t know why he wants to escape so quickly and so recklessly, but it is clear that all he wants to do is leave, as if he had just discovered that the family home was some kind of unholy crime scene.

Belgian cinematographer Christopher Beaucarne specially shoots the scenes with Marc and the children like a spider’s web, almost stolen moments that could blow away in the lightest breeze and disappear in a second. They have a sense of floating normality, almost creepy, as if we are witnessing these everyday moments like those insects encased in transparent resin: completely real and yet completely still.

Helping to bring the two disparate threads together is a voiceover job in which different elements begin to echo each other. Initially, the effect is enigmatic, but things start to clear up around half an hour. It is here that the narrative begins to take on its true weight, as the enormity of what Camille is trying to deal with becomes clear, albeit in her own way and just a little bit at a time. A particularly revealing part is that she dreams of her children’s future and we see them as teenagers, with her daughter, for example, fulfilling her promise as a talented pianist. This particular strand has an eye-opening and devastating reveal of its own. After the initial shock, this understanding helps bring the viewer closer to Camille’s reality, which is a state of insanity and occasional denial that translates into a kind of trance-like reverie.

And indeed, watching large parts of this movie feels transported into a trance-like reverie, albeit a reverie that often has nightmare outlines. Luxembourgish actress Krieps, who also headlined Mia Hansen-Løve’s Cannes competition title Bergman Island, has a perfect cast, as it has an earthy, down-to-earth quality that helps keep the character grounded even in the midst of his wildest follies. And there must be an element of her that remains grounded at all times if she wants to get through all of this, something that somehow reassures not only her but the audience as well. It is a little light at the end of a tunnel similar to a roller coaster.

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