– by David Morgan-Brown
There’s something cheekily self-referential about a slow, moody Italian-French film called The Wait, though the meaning may be more attributed to the story of the film, which does involve a lot of waiting and, simultaneously, internal discovery. A bereaved mother, Anna (Juliette Binoche), is in the first stages of mourning her son when his fiancée, Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), shows up at her estate in Italy. For whatever reasons, Anna continues putting off telling her the truth, which allows Jeanne to stay with Anna and act as something of a stand-in offspring for Anna.
The film spends a great deal of time padding out Anna’s refrain, occasionally teasing it out when she lays out lie after lie, forcing Jeanne to stay with her. There’s not much clarity as to why she is doing this, but it seems relatively obvious for several reasons – it’s too hard to tell the fiancée of her dead son, and she is using her for the company she has now lost. This is an achingly emotional little story that moves along at a slow pace that seems to torture the audience by withholding our satisfaction that could come from Anna finally revealing the news to Jeanne.
The Wait is so delicately handled, each scene moving at a leisurely pace, all the while retaining the powerful emotional intensity because of what Anna and the audience knows that Jeanne doesn’t know. It hardly feels like the film is taking this too far and dragging it out for too long because as Anna withholds the fate of her son from Jeanne, they also begin a small sort of friendship that Jeanne is taking out of kindness, but Anna seems to be involved with out of a desperation for human contact (as she seems to be without any other family members, including a husband).
Juliette Binoche is a powerhouse actress and her role here is simply another terrific (and likely underrated) performance of hers. She is perfectly adept in conveying so much internal struggle, as well as the subduing of these struggles, through just her face. She is usually utterly commanding no matter how defiant or confident the character she plays is, and much of the film’s emotional complexity and profundity is due to her.
I think this simple set-up for The Wait is terrific and the emotional reservoir is certainly milked for all it’s worth. There’s a number of heart-breaking moments that get right down to the core of human frailty in vulnerable situations. On top of being stunningly filmed with a healthy number of beautiful-looking shots (often making use of very, very little light), this is quite the directorial debut from Piero Messina, who will be doing Q&A sessions for the UWA screenings from the 1-3 February, so don’t miss out on that.