The recruitment of white Europeans to the cause of ISIS is a topic which keeps coming up in films. Prolific French director André Téchiné is the latest to add to this list with his newest film, Farewell to the Night.
Rejoining with his longtime collaborator and muse Catherine Deneuve, Téchiné chooses an unusual setting for his narrative: a horse ranch in the south of France. Deneuve stars (in what may well be her most dressed-down role to date) as its owner Muriel, a woman who is confronted with the fact that her estranged grandson Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein) has been radicalized by ISIS recruiters and plans to join their fight in Syria.
Téchiné is known for his investigation of human relationships, and this narrative, contrived as it may feel at times, certainly offers plenty to explore. The relationship between Alex and Muriel starts out fraught, even before his extremist views are revealed. He is closed off and secretive, and she is begging for scraps of his time, afraid that any wrong move might send him off again. But he is her last remaining blood relative, and the connection to him matters to Muriel more than anything else – which is why, as soon as she finds out about his plans, she sets herself the impossible task of stopping him.
Farewell to the Night serves as a great showcase for Deneuve’s talents, providing her with a meaty role as her character runs through a broad spectrum of emotions. Unfortunately, the melodramatic tone Téchiné has chosen for this film – the solar eclipse in the beginning, the returning motif of the flowering cherry trees, a grand, sweeping score to accompany all of it – ultimately only works to undermine the seriousness of its narrative.
CAST: Catherine Deneuve, Kacey Mottet Klein, Oulaya Amamra, Stéphane Bak
DIRECTOR: André Téchiné
WRITERS: André Téchiné, Léa Mysius
SYNOPSIS: Muriel is overjoyed that her grandson Alex is staying at her place for a few days before moving to Canada, but she soon discovers that he is lying to her.