Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

A haunting, magnificently performed courtroom drama that expertly builds an atmosphere of distrust

The Very Best

8.4

Movie

France
English, French, German
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
2023
FEMALE DIRECTOR, JUSTINE TRIET
Alexandre Bertrand, Anne Rotger, Anne-Lise Heimburger
152 min

TLDR

Forget Cillian Murphy or Paul Giamatti for the Oscar—how do we get the dog in this movie nominated for Best Actor?

What it's about

After her husband is found dead outside their secluded mountain home, novelist Sandra becomes the main suspect in the resulting investigation.

The take

You would expect a courtroom drama to be built around damning pieces of evidence, passionate speeches, or certain social issues lending weight to the investigation. But what makes Justine Triet's Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall so remarkable is how direct it is. Triet doesn't treat this case like a puzzle for the audience to participate in solving; instead she fashions this trial into a portrait of a family being eroded by even just the suggestion of distrust. It ultimately has far less to do with who's responsible for the death of a man, and more to do with the challenge of facing the reality that the people we love are capable of being cruel and callous to others.

Which isn't to say that Anatomy of a Fall doesn't still possess qualities that make it a great courtroom drama—doubt only continues to pile up with every new piece of information that's revealed to the audience, until we begin to interpret characters' expressions and actions in a contradictory ways. But the way Triet executes these reveals is just so skillful, choosing precisely how to let details slip and obscuring everything behind faulty memory, intentional dishonesty, or any other obstacles that usually come up during an investigation.

What stands out

In another year once again stacked with worthy potential Best Actress winners, Sandra Hüller deserves to be remembered as one of 2023's best performers. Her work here is unbelievably convincing and lived-in, as she almost actively rejects playing her character in a way that might look dramatic for drama's sake. You feel every bit of her frustration and embarrassment. And no one is better at receiving Hüller's performance and making it even more meaningful than young Milo Machado-Graner, who plays Sandra's son. Watching his world shatter around him is genuinely heartbreaking, and it's through him that the full weight of this tragedy can be felt.

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