A review of  Under the Sand” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: Unrated, but could be PG-13 for adult situations.  In French with English subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

 

Finally a film that glorifies the beauty of middle age.  Charlotte Rampling is the mature, ethereal female protagonist of this haunting tale of love, loss, and denial.

The rhythms of long-term marrieds is a comforting beginning to a frightening tragedy.  Marie (Rampling) and Jean (Bruno Cremer) arrive at their holiday country home, prepared to relax and unwind.  The thrill is evidently gone, replaced by an easy, comfortable camaraderie.  A day at the beach becomes a nightmare of lasting implications, when Jean disappears while Marie naps on the sand.  The lifeguards and the local police are stymied – Jean has vanished without a trace.

Back in Paris, Marie attempts to move on with her life.  Teaching classes, workouts at the gym, dinners with friends – all is status quo but for her missing mate. Marie cannot move on, indeed cannot endure the thought of being alone.  Unable to cope with her loss, Marie keeps Jean alive in her imagination, pouring him coffee in the morning, and conversing with him throughout the day.  When a romance begins developing with the friend of a friend, Marie struggles to break through her barrier of grief.

This isn’t about what’s said, but what is left unsaid.  Marie’s silent struggle is depressing, frustrating, and more than a little aggravating, made worse by the relentlessly happy face she puts on it.  The fear of losing a loved one is palpable, as is the unknown.  Jean is missing, period. 

Rampling, at the striking age of fifty-six, is photographed a la natural, unfiltered and glowing with the radiance of wisdom and raw talent. (One can only keep exercising and praying for such a lasting impression).  Evocative and resonating with pain and hope, this is a very grown-up kind of love story.