Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Lindon attempt to keep their desires from turning into a full-blown affair in “Mademoiselle Chambon.” (Lorber Films)
'Mademoiselle Chambon" is a charmingly direct film of simple contrasts about the difficulty of change.
Jean (Vincent Lindon) is in construction, banging away at walls, mixing concrete, driving nails. His wife Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) works in a factory, lifting boxes, sorting publications. They dote over their son, Jeremy (Arthur Le Houerou), even as they struggle to help him with his homework.
One day Jeremy's teacher, Veronique Chambon (a wistful Sandrine Kiberlaine), asks Jean to speak to her class about his job. His appearance is a success, and she asks him to repair a window in her apartment. He does and soon the two are drawn to one another.
She is everything he is not — educated, sophisticated, worldly, unrooted. She plays the violin and he marvels at the beauty of it.
The same is true in reverse. Jean is earthy, rooted, strong and sure of what he does and is, and a committed family man … until he meets Veronique.
This isn't the story of some sweaty affair. The two realize and acknowledge their attractions and then back away when Jean finds out his wife is pregnant again.
And they stay separate until it's time for Veronique to move on. At which point, it's also time for Jean to decide if he will pursue love or stay with the life to which he's accustomed.
Writer-director Stephane Brize is anything but flashy, but that's what makes this story work. These aren't extraordinary people and this isn't some operatic love affair. This is drama of the norm; it happens and this is how it happens.
"Mademoiselle Chambon" is unquestionably French — it even climaxes in a train station — but it's also sublimely universal. There's a part of each of us in this small, quiet film.
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