MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 9, 2022: HOLD ME TIGHT

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Haunting, engrossing, mysterious — the one thing that director Mathieu Amalric’s melancholy drama Hold Me Tight never is, is predictable. It will keep you guessing and hypothesizing until its final scenes. And thanks to Vicky Krieps’ magnetic performance as Clarisse, a conflicted French wife and mother who abruptly leaves her family early one morning (or does she?), it offers a poignant meditation on the nature of memory and loss, identity and purpose.

Clarisse lives with her husband, Marc (Arieh Worthalter), and their children, Lucie (played by Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet and Juliette Benveniste at different ages) and Paul (Sacha Ardilly and Aurèle Grzesik), in a comfortably eclectic home that seems warm and welcoming. So why, then, does Clarisse pack a bag and bolt, hitting the road in her old car and — apparently — setting out to start a new life on her own? Do Marc and the children know where she is? Did they embark on their own adventure? Why does Clarisse sift through photos of her family like they’re part of a memory-matching game?

For much of its running time, Hold Me Tight — which was adapted from an unproduced play by Claudine Galea — has many more questions than it does answers. The story isn’t told in a linear way, and it’s often unclear what’s reality and what’s part of Clarisse’s imagination (or memory). But that confusion is exactly the point. As the “real” story gradually does come into focus, you realize that Amalric, Krieps, and the rest of the cast are working to show how devastating and disorienting it can be to be plagued by doubt, regret, and wishful thinking.

The movie is beautifully acted and confidently filmed, with impressive cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne. While Krieps is the movie’s center, the rest of the ensemble is also skilled, especially Worthalter as a father unexpectedly navigating life as a solo parent and Benveniste as a teenage Lucie, whose anger and sorrow fuel her talent as a pianist but also threaten to get in the way of her realizing her dreams. Then again, perhaps that’s just Clarisse projecting her own feelings; with a film as deliberately open to interpretation as Hold Me Tight is, it’s hard to tell for sure. And that’s what makes the film so powerful. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Loren King French actor turned director Mathieu Amalric makes a bold but ultimately compelling creative choice to portray a woman’s unimaginable grief by layering timelines and mixing up points of view. The deeply interior approach is given expression by the ever-amazing Vicky Krieps as Clarisse. Krieps holds the screen from the first scenes of her leaving her house at dawn while her two kids and husband are sleeping. The film cuts between what seems to be the present, with an obviously distraught Clarisse on the road in a classic car, listening to her daughter’s piano playing on cassette, and drinking alone in a mountainside bar with past events: meeting her future husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) in a dance club; playing with her son and daughter. There are haunting images — a lone hobby horse; a stack of Polaroid snaps — that hint at something too big in Clarisse’s shattered world to depict in linear fashion. Gradually, the source of Clarisse’s erratic behavior comes into focus which culminates in a heart wrenching scene. The film, anchored by Krieps, delivers a modulated, finely etched portrait of grief and loss.

Pam Grady: In Mathieu Almaric’s enigmatic melodrama, a woman walks out her door one day, turning her back on her husband and children. At least, that is the way it appears initially, an odd choice for Clarisse (Alice Krieps), a woman who clearly adores her family. But as she imagines their life without her, even foreseeing futures for her daughter and son as they reach adolescence and her husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) raising them without their mother (and never replacing her with a new partner), it becomes clear this is no “she’s leaving home” situation. Almaric and cowriter Claudine Galea lay out clues, bread crumbs for the viewers to follow in a film that is, at its heart, the portrait of a woman’s devotion to those she holds dearest.

Marilyn Ferdinand The beautiful Pyrenees mountain range in southwestern France that forms much of the setting of French director Mathieu Amalric’s film Hold Me Tight reminds we temporal creatures of the eternal that watches passively as we try to negotiate our brief lives. Moving between real and imagined experiences, the structure of the film provides audiences with a bit of a puzzle, but Amalric, who wrote the screenplay based on a play by Claudine Galea, knows what he’s doing. Loss is disorienting. Great loss shatters reality into a million pieces that some people never fit back together. Vicky Krieps plays the main protagonist in an almost dissociative way as she threads through her life with her husband and two children and searches for something definitive to help her gain her bearings again. While Hold Me Tight may prove a challenge, it is well worth the effort.

Leslie Combemale Our imaginations can be creative or protective. In the case of grief or loss, the line between reality and imagination can not only be blurred, it can be completely obliterated. That, in part, is at the center of Hold Me Tight. As Clarisse, Vicki Krieps embodies a woman fractured by memory. She vacillates between hope and despair with such commitment and authenticity that we are driven, for better or worse, to whatever emotional places Krieps takes her character. As in most real-life experiences, there is no catharsis to be had in Hold Me Tight, which is one of many fearless choices made by screenwriter/director Mathieu Amalric that will have some loving and others cursing the film.

Jennifer Merin Hold Me Tight (Serre Moo Forte), a psychological thriller centering on a woman who seems to be searching for an understanding of her life and family ties, sometimes from a place of sorrow, sometimes from a place of anger, sometimes from place of unquestioning love. French director Mathieu Amalric’s adaptation of Claudine Galea’s stage play Je reviens de loin effectively uses Christophe Beaucarne’s stunning cinematography to keep you baffled but thoroughly engaged in the story of Clarisse, woman whose actions are wrapped in mystery until the film’s denouement. Vicki Krieps’ perfectly nuanced performance as Clarisse is gripping, as are the performances of Arieh Worthalter as her husband and Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet as her daughter.

Susan Wloszczyna: Hold Me Tight is a twisty maze-like French thriller from writer-director Mathieu Amalric. It begins with a frustrated woman named Clarisse, who tries to sort through old family photos while recreating old memories of her family. We don’t exactly know her circumstances, but it is clear that she is grieving over some issues while disconnected somehow from her handsome husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) as well as her pre-teen son Paul and daughter Lucie, who is a talented pianist. That allows us to be serenaded with piano pieces composed by Beethoven and Schoenberg. While Amalric’s tangled plot might prove frustrating for many, he at least was smart enough to cast the enchanting Luxembourgish actress Vicky Krieps, best known as Daniel Day-Lewis’s fashion muse in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread from 2017. Another stand-out in the cast is Juliette Benveniste as Clarisse’s teen daughter. Alas, the continuity in the film is far too choppy, while cryptic clues are dropped along the way such as references to “Friday” and “waiting for spring.” Perhaps the biggest reveal arrives when Clarisse says to Marc, “I’m not the one who left.”

Liz Whittemore Hold Me Tight is the newest film from French actor-director Mathieu Amalric, centering around the emotional and physical break between a mother, her two children, and her husband. The film is a gripping narrative that has your heart in your throat from beginning to end. The editing is an absolute triumph, using fractured storytelling and poetic voiceovers. Vicky Krieps gives a mesmerizing performance as a woman unraveling. Each beat is carefully curated, mired in sadness and pure love. It is an award-worthy turn. Hold Me Tight is an extraordinary study of grief and moving forward.

Cate MarquisVicky Krieps gives a stunning, moving haunting performance in director Mathieu Amalric’s haunting, mysterious exploration of loss, memory and mental breakdown, Hold Me Tight. Krieps plays Clarisse, a woman we first meet as she is leaving the rural home she shares with her husband and two pre-adolescent children, but it quickly becomes clear something more complex than a woman leaving her family is going on here. Two stories, Clarisse’s and that of her husband and their son and daughter, unfold in parallel, jumping forward and back in time, interspersed with imagined scenes as well. Memory, grief and mental illness all play a role, and although we are not always sure what is real, director Mathieu Amalric keeps us intrigued, aided by Kriep’s remarkable performance and Christophe Beaucarne’s dream-like photography. Although a scene mid-film hints at an answer, the truth is confirmed in a devastated late one, resolving the mystery by film’s end.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Hold Me Tight

Directors: Mathieu Amalric

Release Date: September 9. 2022

Running Time: 97 minutes

Language: French with English subtitles

Screenwriter: Mathieu Amalric, based on a play by Claudine Galea

Distribution Company: Kino Lorber

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).