Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

France/Germany/Austria 2012
Directed by
Michael Haneke
122 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Synopsis: Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers in their eighties who live in Paris. When Anne has a stroke leaving her semi-paralysed and then another that leaves her bedridden and with dementia Georges must care for her alone.

It is almost needless to say that Michael Haneke’s second Palme D’Or winner arrives on our screens swathed in critical praise. The good news it that unlike Silver Linings Playbook it is all deserved. Not that this will be a film for everyone. Dealing unflinchingly with the indignities of the end of life for an octogenarian couple it is not an easy film to watch but for its rigorous honesty it is one to admire.

Whilst much of this honesty derives from Haneke’s spare, well-judged script and directing it also comes from the masterful performances from the two leads.  Riva, who began her long career with the 1959 art house classic Hiroshima Mon Amour in which she played a young woman in the throes of a brief romance here plays an elderly but active woman whose joie de vivre is suddenly taken from her. Riva’s portrayal of Anne’s rapid physical and mental decline is remarkable, absolutely faithful to Haneke’s unwavering gaze. Trintignant in a way has a harder role for he does not have the physical manifestations to work with but must by subtler means show the pain of caring for his much-loved wife as she slowly dies. This, however, he does equally convincingly.

I was not one of the many people impressed by the portrayal of old age and dementia in Sarah Polley’s 2006 film Away From Her but as much as it also stays well within the boundaries of narrative cinema Amour is film that makes the realities of dying palpable. Haneke offers no light relief or dramatic contrast to Anne and Georges’ story.  Isabelle Huppert, an actress who tends to chew scenery, not least in Haneke’s own 2002 film The Music Teacher appears briefly as their daughter but she is kept under close wraps, serving simply to help articulate Georges’ indomitable commitment to his life-long companion.

If there is any criticism to be made of the film it is that it sticks very much to the conventional form of French art-house film. Anne and Georges live in an elegantly furnished, book-lined apartment where Anne's baby grand piano is on hand for impromptu bouts of Schumann. Perhaps commercially however that was not such a bad decision as in every other respect Amour is a sobering experience.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst