Faut-Il Aimer Mathilde: French Melodrama Starring Michelle Blanc

Should Mathilde Be Loved?

Faut-il Aimer Mathilde? is a French melodrama centering on the mid-life crisis of a sensitive working-class femme and her need for self-renewal.

This sharply observed psychological study should be of interest to female viewers and to audiences who keep up with recent developments of French cinema.

Mathilde (Dominique Blanc), the heroine of director Edwin Baily’s drama is an attractive middle-aged woman, left alone to raise her children when her husband suddenly disappears. A working mother, she spends her free time with her extended family, which consists of her two sisters and father-in-law. Desolate, Mathilde feels that nothing is happening in her life, that time is passing her by. The much needed impetus for change is provided by an accident at work, which forces Mathilde to reevaluate her web of relationships and take stronger hold of her fate.

Shot in Northern France, melancholy pic provides a good sense of place, observing with attention to detail Mathilde’s mundane life and her interactions with four men: Jean-Pierre, the husband who deserted her without an explanation; Charlie, her current dull beau who has been in love with her ever since childhood; the married Jacques, who fathered her illegitimate son; and Mano, a Spanish immigrant who volunteers to rebuild her house.

Unlike American movies focusing on women, scripters refuse to present Mathilde as a victim of social circumstances. They also refreshingly refrain from judging their characters–women and men. Instead, they let Mathilde have the audience’s sympathy up to the point where her husband reappears and accuses her of being self-absorbed and neglectful of marital duties.

Baily’s direction is at times soft and low-key, though he is good at locating the gentle humor in the most painful episodes. Dominique Blanc, who holds the narrative together, carries off her role with physical grace and verbal charm, displaying a great range of emotion and intelligence. Blanc brings to her role a mixture of strong presence and light self-mockery that helps establish the film’s shifting moods.