Movie Review: ‘Anatomy of a Fall’

By John Thomas

It’s not easy communicating with loud music blaring in the background. Playing loud music, however, is the only way the husband can work. He’s remodeling the third-floor attic of the family’s Grenoble chalet.

On the first floor, his wife is being interviewed by a university student. His wife, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Huller), a noted writer, decides to reschedule the meeting with the student for another time. To escape the noise their son, Daniel (Milo Machado), takes his guide dog Snoop for a walk in the snowy woods.

Daniel returns home to find his father lying in the snow in a pool of blood below the open attic window. Over the noise of the loud music, Sandra finally hears her son’s screams for help and dashes outside. The medics and police arrive soon after and begin their investigations. Also arriving on the scene is Sandra’s long-time friend and lawyer Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud).

In their conversation, she tells him that her husband must have accidentally fallen from the above open window. Vincent feels the courts won’t agree with her.

The autopsy reveals the husband suffered a severe blow to the head before landing on the ground. The blow could have happened when his head struck the roof of the shed directly below the attic – or before.

After interviewing the only two witnesses, Sandra and Daniel, the police decided the husband was either pushed or jumped out of the window. Their inquiries also reveal that Sandra has a bruise on her arm and that she and her husband had an argument the day before his death. Daniel vaguely recalls hearing them arguing but is not sure of the how, what, where or when of it. The courts will decide.

Neither the prosecuting or defense attorneys have much information to present to the judge. Yes, the couple argued. Yes, the husband had been using antidepressants, but stopped some weeks before. Yes, he felt responsible for their son’s accident that compromised his vision.

Yes, Sandra had used an outline of her husband’s never written book for her own successful novel. No, he wasn’t jealous of her success. Yes, she had a clandestine relationship a year ago with another person while the two were still married.

Daniel not only struggles with the loss of his father, but also trying to remember what actually took place on day of his father’s death. Was Daniel inside or out, could he actually hear anything being said with all the loud music? Daniel has yet to testify in court.

To protect him from being contacted by others, the judge assigns a female court monitor to be constantly at his side. The judge doesn’t want anyone influencing the stricken boy’s testimony.

Daniel, the monitor and Snoopy bond immediately. They wander the woods, enjoy meals together and have long conversations. In one of their talks, Daniel confides to her his trouble deciding the truth of what actually took place that fateful day.

She replies that when we don’t know what is really true, we can instead just decide what is true for us. Monday morning Daniel appears before the judge to give his testimony – what the truth is to him.

Directed by Justine Triet (Credits: Sibyl, Victoria), Anatomy of a Fall runs 152 minutes and is a “must see” for a gripping suspenseful legal drama. The cast and director are outstanding. It is the Palm d’Or winner at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.

[Editor Note: This film has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards.]

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