Summer Hours


Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Written by:Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier, Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Isabelle Sadoyan
Released: April 2, 2009
Grade: A

Summer Hours is the moving tale of two brothers and a sister who have to make some tough, emotional decisions following the death of their 75 year old mother, Helene (Scob). The biggest question is what to do with their mother’s gorgeous country house and its collection of paintings and drawings.

Frederic (Berling), Jeremie (Renier) and Adrienne (Binoche) all have precious memories of their upbringing at the house. Times have changed however and these three siblings have changed with them. Adrienne now lives in New York and is engaged to be married. Jeremie is about to accept a job offer in China and will move there with his wife and three children. Frederic is the only one still living in France but he too is busy with his own family and his career in economics.

Should they keep the house in the family, or should they sell it? Should they keep the paintings and artefacts, or should they share it with the world by donating it to a museum? The Musee d’Orsey has already indicated its interest in a number of 19th Century furniture pieces.

There’s so much more to this story that I won’t go into but I can be describe it as a reflective, thought provoking piece. It is told by writer-director Olivier Assayas in fragments. It’s as if we’re a fly on the wall. Popping in and out of their lives every once and a while to see what they’re up to. We slowly move around the room, taking in not only their conversation but the view around them. In the background is a soft, comforting film score to help keep you at ease.

The film doesn’t focus on one central character either. Some poignant thoughts are provided by Helene, who we see a few months before she passed away at her 75th birthday party. We see the long serving housekeeper, Eloise (Sadoyan), struggle with the realisation that her own life must take a new path. The grandchildren have their place in the film also with the coming-of-age actions of Frederic’s daughter providing a fitting finale.

I was telling someone recently that "beauty is in the eye of beholder" and let me just say, when it comes to cinema, this is my definition of beautiful.