Known Alias

This book adaptation has a grand capacity for compassion and complexity

The blood disease porphyria sparked madness in England's King George III, so its impact on manic Margot (Nicole Garcia) and her hapless daughter Betty (cucumber-cool Sandrine Kiberlain) is about as shocking as a Hoosier mom beating her kid on camera--and as scarring. What's wonderful about director Claude Miller's adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel The Tree of Hands is its grand capacity for compassion and complexity. As an adult, Betty (née Brigitet) is a successful author and repressed suburban mother whose own mother brings madness yet again, but by weaving into these episodic yet intricately linked stories a poor child (Alexis Chatrian), his careless, libidinous barmaid mother (Mathilde Seigner), her seeming layabout boyfriend (Luck Mervil) and a persistent detective on everyone's case (Yves Verhoeven), Miller creates a deceptively simple but extremely fulfilling cross section of humanity. Barring the ludicrously explosive climax, the movie is deftly delivered, intimately lensed by Christophe Pollock and elegantly edited by Véronique Lange. Its thesis: Sometimes we all need a transfusion.

 
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