The Truth

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Truth Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful mother-daughter story has strong performances.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie is partly about family struggles between a grown daughter and her mother, but the main theme is perhaps represented by the title. Just what, exactly, is "truth"? Can memories properly represent the truth? Is there a difference between someone's "emotional" truth and a more factual one?

Positive Role Models & Representations

No clear role models here: The characters are just complex humans, struggling with their own fears, shortcomings, and disappointments. Fabienne is a successful, accomplished performer, but she also behaves in a selfish way.

Violence

Arguments.

Sex

Reference to an actor getting a part by sleeping with the director.

Language

Uses of "s--t." A use of "pee."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character has given up drinking. Mention of rehab. Cigarette smoking by adults. Characters drink wine with dinner. Mention of being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Truth is a largely French-language drama by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda (Shoplifters) that stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke. While it has very little iffy material (it's fine for tweens and up), the subject matter -- the complicated relationship between an aging actress and her adult daughter -- will likely bore many younger viewers. Expect some sex-related talk and strong language (a few uses of "s--t"). Characters smoke cigarettes and drink socially, and one character is said to have quit drinking. Rehab is mentioned. It feels a little lightweight, but it has a solid center, with great characters and performances.

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What's the story?

In THE TRUTH, legendary movie actor Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve) has just published her memoir and is embarking on a new role in a science fiction movie. At the same time, Fabienne's daughter, screenwriter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), arrives from New York with her actor husband, Hank (Ethan Hawke), and their young daughter, Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier). Lumir reads her mother's memoir and is astonished to find many untruths. For example, Fabienne claims to have been a doting mother, when the opposite was true. Meanwhile, Fabienne starts shooting and finds herself playing the septuagenarian daughter of the movie's younger main character (Manon Clavel); in the story, Manon is ill and lives in outer space, where she doesn't age. Between the movie and the memoir, can mother and daughter find a way to reconnect?

Is it any good?

Working outside his native Japan with famous French and American stars, director Hirokazu Koreeda delivers a drama that seems a tad slight but is still quietly thoughtful and beautifully acted. Certain characters, including Hank, and certain subplots/themes don't really seem necessary, and they give the impression of trailing off into nothingness. The majority of The Truth is in French (with English subtitles for U.S. release), and Hank's character speaks only in English, so he spends most of the movie either looking confused or ignoring the other adults and playing games with Charlotte. Another character, "Susan," seems important and is mentioned in dialogue but is never seen.

But Binoche and Deneuve are spectacular in their scenes together, and Deneuve has one of her best and funniest roles with Fabienne, often getting laughs with her wry, sophisticated line readings. The sci-fi movie-within-the-movie also offers a fascinating perspective, with Fabienne playing scenes as a daughter who longs to fill in the blanks of her relationship with her mother. It's an insightful mirror-opposite of the real-life scenes between Fabienne and Lumir. Even though The Truth isn't perfect, it's these humanist touches -- a trademark of Koreeda (I Wish, Shoplifters) -- that make it worth seeing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Truth depicts alcohol/drinking. Is it glamorized? How do you think the filmmakers intend viewers to feel about the character who has given up drinking?

  • How is smoking depicted? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What's the mother-daughter relationship like in this story? How is it similar or different to your own relationship(s)?

  • What's interesting or unique about a Japanese filmmaker telling a story about people in France? Is his view of human behavior universal?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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