The Refuge

17 08 2010

A lot happens in The Refuge, and yet a lot doesn’t happen. There may be a death within the first 15 minutes, but from then on the pace is very slow, very French, with meaning and feelings shared in long silences, glances and passionate embraces.

The Refuge follows heroin addict Mousse (Isabelle Carré), discovering she is pregnant with her dead boyfriend’s baby. She ignores his family’s wish to abort the baby and retreats to a cottage by the sea, where she is joined by her late boyfriend’s brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy). As Mousse’s pregnancy develops the pair form an unusual bond, which is complicated by Paul’s homosexuality.

Carré was pregnant during the course of the film, which was written by director Francois Ozon specifically with another pregnant actress in mind who later pulled out of the project.

Carré glows with radiant sensuality, as her character develops from a heroin fiend shooting up in a Paris apartment to a mother-to-be, strolling across the beach and attracting wellwishers who want to touch her expanding stomach.

But she still has a methadone prescription, and drinks and smokes, having not quite left behind her former junky lifestyle. The cottage by the sea becomes a refuge for both her and Paul, each looking for a temporary escape from the real world.

Choisy, who plays the beautiful and enigmatic Paul, is not a professional actor but a singer songwriter by trade, who wrote the film’s mesmerising theme song, which for director Ozon (Swimming Pool, 5×2), “is like a lingering perfume, a reminder of his brother’s presence”.

The Refuge is absolutely captivating and hauntingly beautiful.

The Refuge is showing at the Watershed until August 26. More details here.


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