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Saint Omer (2022)

Saint Omer (2022)

The complexities of humanity are tackled in this profound, poetic, and immensely powerful French film

The Very Best

9.0

Movie

France
French, Portuguese
Crime, Drama
2022
ALICE DIOP, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Adama Diallo Tamba, Alain Payen, Aurelia Petit
123 min

What it's about

A novelist attends the trial of a woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to the rising tide on a beach in northern France. But as the trial continues, her own family history, doubts, and fears about motherhood are steadily dislodged as the life story of the accused is gradually revealed.

The take

Nothing about Saint Omer is easy. A female Senegalese migrant (Guslagie Malanga) is put to trial for committing infanticide, but throughout the film, it becomes clear how much of a victim she is too, of an uncaring and deeply prejudiced society. “What drove her to madness?” Her attorney asks at one point. We’re not sure. We're not necessarily asked to side with her, nor answer the many hard-hitting questions brought up in the film, but we sit with the uneasiness of it all and, in that silence, confront our ideas about motherhood, womanhood, personhood. 

This confusion is what makes the film so compelling. Despite the court’s best efforts, Laurence isn’t meant to be understood. She’s meant to be an example of the ever-ambiguous, forever-complicated, always-hurt person. It’s human nature after all to be this complex and messed up. The film shows us that the best that we can do in situations like this is to listen, understand, and as our protagonist Rama (Kayije Kagame) does, make peace with the noise. 

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