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Reviews for May 1st, 2015

Marie's Story

Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris

      In 19th Century France, Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré) teaches a 14-year-old blind and dead girl, Marie (Ariana Rivoire), how to communicate via sign language at Larnay Institute, a convent run my Catholic nuns who teach other deaf girls as well. The Mother Superior (Brigitte Catillon) doesn't quite warm up to Marguerite teaching Marie, but Marguerite does so nonetheless while remaining confident that Maria can learn sign language despite the odds.

      Based on a true story, Marie's Story seems like a familiar premise on the surface, but what's more important is how the story is told instead of what is told. Writer/director Jean- Pierre Améris and co-writer Philippe Blasband take a humanist approach by delving into the relationship between Marguerite and Marie while eschewing detailed scenes of Marie learning sign language. You do see how Marguerite teaches Marie a few basic words every now and then, but when it comes to Marie's struggles to learn those words or what makes Marguerite's teaching methods unique is left to your imagination. Améris and Blasband wisely avoid turning any scenes into schmaltz or melodrama. To be fair, the screenplay could have gone darker and deeper, but that's forgivable because everything feels so true to life. Marguerite and Marie's friendship and bond remains the heart and soul of the film from start to finish. It's quite uplifting to watch Marie learn to communicate and to observe Marguerite's persistence as well as her compassion for another human being.

      Isabelle Carré gives a tremendously moving performance as does Ariana Rivoire. Neither of those performances have a false note which is as much a testament to the fine choice of casting as it is to the natural talents of Carré and Rivoire. Their chemistry together feel palpable, and they both carry the emotional weight of the film with conviction. At an ideal running time of 95 minutes, Marie's Story is a heartwarming and superbly-acted drama that hits all the right emotional notes without overstaying its welcome.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Film Movement.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
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