“Anatomy of a Fall” (“Anatomie d’une chute”)


Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

It’s always disappointing when a film aspires to greatness that it never achieves. Such is the case with the latest offering from French writer-director Justine Triet, whose allegedly suspenseful thriller is about as appetizing as a plate of tepid leftovers. This crime investigation/courtroom drama about the mysterious death of a middle-aged unsuccessful writer (Samuel Theis) who falls from the second story of his mountain chalet looks into whether his demise is due to suicide or murder, with his wife (Sandra Hüller), herself a best-selling author, being the prime suspect. Despite an intriguing premise, however, the movie is overlong, needlessly talky and inherently flat, with a cold, clinical, unengaging narrative and characters who engender no connection, compassion or empathy. In essence, this is a “whodunnit” that plays like an extended “whocares.” Fault the screenplay here, which seeks to tell a tale in the same gripping vein as such great courtroom dramas as “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959) but that never achieves the level of tension, mystery and audience engagement needed to pull that off. The meticulously orchestrated script feels calculated and derivative virtually from start to finish, especially in its trial sequences, which explore an array of possible motives and explanations, including everything from infidelity to plagiarism to previous suicide attempts, that rely on often-implausible speculation and inflated conjecture to carry forward a proceeding that probably never should have ended up in court in the first place. What’s more, the double entendre that is the picture’s title is so obvious that any hopes of nuance, subtlety or profundity evaporate quickly once the failing nature of the couple’s troubled relationship surfaces. While the film admittedly features a fine performance by Hüller, it’s far from enough to rescue a picture with big aspirations that never pan out. How this release has garnered so much exaggerated awards season buzz is beyond me, especially given its intrinsically insipid, underwhelming, overstated character. There are plenty of other films of this ilk out there that are far more worth watching than this one, so grab one of those better selections instead and give this one the well-earned pass it genuinely deserves.