The Midwife (2017)
As the film opens up, we hear someone trying to help a woman give birth, working on when to breathe, when to push. We see Claire (Catherine Frot) helping a woman deliver, offering encouragement and advice. Claire is firm but reassuring as the worried husband looks on from his wife’s side. We see the head of the baby, and then the arms as Claire guides the baby out, telling the young woman that the baby is beautiful. Claire places the baby on the chest of the mother, another successful birth. The husband and wife revel in the joy of the moment as Claire admires the baby’s hands. It’s evident that Claire loves what she does, and that she is very good at her job.
Later, at the nurse’s station, it’s obvious that Claire works the night shift. She and another nurse discuss what course of action Claire should take now that the hospital that they work at is closing. Claire is called to help with a baby in distress; its cord is wrapped around its neck. Claire takes charge, reassuring the mom to be that everything will be OK, and quickly and calmly Claire fixes the problems with skill and grace, delivering a healthy baby once again.
Her shift over she heads out, passing by a sign that says, “Don’t Give Up!” Claire gets on her bike and heads down the dark, quiet street toward her home. She arrives at her apartment as the sun is coming up, having to take the stairs as the elevator is broken. Once inside, Claire checks to see if her son is home (which he isn’t) and starts preparation to go to bed. As she undresses, she checks her answering machine, and sure enough, her son tells her he won’t be home but will call tomorrow. The second message makes her stop in her tracks. It’s a woman from Claire’s past named Beatrice and Claire is about to get reacquainted with someone who broke her family apart.
Writer/director Marin Provost gives us a tale of two women; Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve) who has lived life to the fullest, never settling down for too long and at no time worrying about who she hurts as she leaves people behind, and Claire, who was desperately wounded as a teenager and has lived her life through her work and her son. The Midwife is a film about the mistakes in our past, and if we forgive those transgressions to grow in the present, or our future will still be clouded by the sins of the past. The two women went on very different life paths, but both seem empty in their personal lives. Beatrice is at her last end, having to depend on the kindness of friends, most of which she owns money to. While not leading as glamorous life as Beatrice appears to have lived, Claire doesn’t have the time or the patience to have a personal life. Her devotion to her son (who is about to leave his mom for greener pastures) and to her job gives her little time other than to work in her beloved garden.
Of course, the reason to watch this film is Catherine Frot as the headstrong and cautious Claire and Catherine Deneuve as the flashy Beatrice, a woman who is always looking for someone to help her, especially if it deals with money. Both women play survivors, Deneuve’s character has done it through looks and flare, Flot’s character has done it through determination and focus. Deneuve’s Beatrice seems sometimes wanting to be the best friend of Claire and at other times wants to be Claire’s mom. Frot’s Claire is looking for her mother in Beatrice because she doesn’t get along with her own mother. Frot gives the better of the two performances as more is demanded of her role, dealing with her son, her job that is going away and a demanding woman in Deneuve’s Beatrice. Beatrice is the type of person that will suck you dry if you let them. Deneuve, who gives the role everything she’s got, is a bit limited by the one-trick pony style of Beatrice, someone who is always looking for a fast buck and needing for people to want to help her. Except for Claire’s interaction with her son Simon (Quentin Doimaire) and a wannabe lover in next fellow gardener Paul (Oliver Gourmet), the bulk of the film is the interaction between Claire and Beatrice. Deneuve and Frot have terrific chemistry with each other, making their scenes feel intense and intriguing. To watch both actresses work on the screen is a master class in acting.
Like the children whom Claire helps come into this world, Claire and Beatrice’s relationship starts to grow as they get to understand each other, letting their relationship develop. And, like Claire’s son, eventually Beatrice will leave for the next adventure, but both women will become close and forgive what happened in the past. The Midwife story may be a little weak and its resolution predictable, but Deneuve and Frot give us performances that we will not soon forget. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is currently playing at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
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