Lumir has returned to Paris with her TV actor husband Hank and their daughter Charlotte, to celebrate the publication of her mother’s book, but Dangeville’s reluctance to send her an advance copy has aroused her suspicions. Meanwhile, the great actress struggles to relate to her latest film role, playing the aged daughter of a terminally-ill woman, who has used the relativity of interstellar space travel to stretch her time, but as a result, she has been almost entirely from her husband and daughter’s lives. Frankly, she only accepted the part to work with Manon Lenoir, the daughter of a former friend and colleague, whom she may have done wrong, at least according to Lumir.
If that premise sounds familiar, it is because associate producer Ken Liu’s story “Memories of My Mother” was previously adapted as the short film Beautiful Dreamer before becoming the source of Kore-eda’s film-within-the-film. It is quite a unique distinction for Liu among his fellow sf writers, but it is easy to see how the themes of his story overlap with those of Kore-eda’s family drama (and his entire oeuvre).
Of course, patrons of French cinema will be much more interested in the first-time pairing of Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche as the mother-daughter tandem. They will not be disappointed. Admittedly, Deneuve is playing with her own image to some extent, but her grand diva act is certainly entertaining to behold. She also has some terrific scenes with young Clementine Grenier, as her granddaughter. However, Binoche is totally believable as the down-to-earth Lumir, who nurtures her resentments without wallowing in them. She plays Lumir as a functional adult rather than an over-the-top cliché. (Thank heavens, Meryl Streep is not in this film.)