in "Brother and Sister", Arnaud Desplechin explores unbreakable and toxic family ties

in “Brother and Sister”, Arnaud Desplechin explores unbreakable and toxic family ties



The family, place of origins, is also the mythological factory par excellence. From ancient theater to psychoanalysis, Western culture has never said otherwise: humans stumble because they are prisoners of structures that go beyond them, of laws that precede them, of bonds that they cannot sever. Taken in a family, the individual is no longer exactly himself: he doubles as a function – father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter – and thereby finds himself committed to a destiny.

The latest and fourteenth feature film by Arnaud Desplechin, presented on Friday May 20, in competition at Cannes simultaneously with its theatrical release, digs into the family vein that recurs in his dotted work, started very early with The Life of the Dead (1991) and continued with A Christmas tale (2008). A vein that is that of the choral narrative, of the return home (Roubaix, the filmmaker’s birthplace and its fictional Ithaca), of the mixing of filial ties, rituals, duties and the resentment that lies beneath.

The family also being the place of great passions, it is thus with an excessive feeling that the film traces the particular genealogy: the frank and unmixed hatred which opposed for years a brother and a sister, Louis (Melvil Poupaud) and Alice (Marion Cotillard). He is a writer, deeply broken by the loss of a child, she is an actress, playing every night The dead, by James Joyce, on stage. Louis has a psychiatrist friend, Zwy, played by Patrick Timsit.

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Hate has a history, generally muddled, because its causes are lost in the sequence of its adventures. The event that allows us here to reconvene the different strata is a road accident (the scene, superb and terrible, is a marvel of millimeter suspense), suffered by the parents of the protagonists, who find themselves in the hospital and on the verge of death. Louis and Alice can only hurry to their bedside under the express condition, demanded by the actress, of not being in the presence of her brother. A request that will have the incredible effect of “partitioning” the family reunion on either side of an invisible Rubicon. Let everyone find their own, but only in their corner.

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What is a kinship made of? What mystery, what violence? Like Kings & Queen (2004), which told the story of a couple after their separation, Brother and sister is based on a duality of masculine and feminine principles, here like the two opposite poles of the same adventure. Here too, the stories of the man and the woman revolve around each other, respect each other, but remain irreducible to each other for a long time.

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