Directed by Stéphane Brizé, Mademoiselle Chambon is an absorbingly moving watch. Jean (Vincent Lindon) is a happy family man and the film wastes no time establishing this. We watch as Jean and wife Anne-Marie comically attempt to aid in their son’s homework but the tranquil domesticity is soon riled after a chance encounter, bought about by Anne-Marie suffering an accident at work.
In meeting the titular Mademoiselle Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), Jean’s life is changed forever, even if such changes are outwardly subtle. In fact, the film is a great example of subtle film making; Mademoiselle Chambon doesn’t set out to shock, it simply drops in on two people and casually watches as they struggle to determine their feelings for each other. It is the unsaid things between the pair that perhaps makes the film so striking.
Jean is enamoured. His fascination with the mysterious school teacher is withdrawn but palpable and his desire seems to ripple through the screen when he watches her play the violin. Whilst his infatuation intensifies his wife announces a shocking revelation that threatens to derail any hopes he may have invented. This, as well as the tension caused by the lust shared with Chambon, soon takes its toll and he lashes out at those around him.
The film relies heavily on the ordinary and this ultimately grounds the story, helping make its outcome have an even heavier impact. The lead’s romance doesn’t exactly blossom, after all. Instead it is stilted and awkward and marred amidst the toil and trouble of daily life. This slow build-up helps add power to the meaningful finalé.
Mademoiselle Chambon is by no means a perfect film, but its prolonged shots and awkward moments brilliantly capture the essence of the everyday. Ultimately it is its flaws that perhaps make the film such engrossing viewing.
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