“Hold Me Tight” (“Serre moi fort”)
Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
When viewing a film that’s presented as a puzzle, one certainly hopes that everything will make sense at the end. Of course, if that result is to be at all satisfactory, the narrative for getting viewers to that conclusion needs to be equally engaging. Unfortunately, that’s where writer-director Mathieu Amalric’s latest offering loses its way. While the story of a wife and mother (Vicky Krieps) desperate to leave her family starts out strong (especially since her reasons for doing so are far from clear), audiences are likely to think that they’re in store for a compelling ride, a mystery that’s going to deliciously reveal itself as the story plays out. However, after this noteworthy beginning, the picture spins its yarn in a highly fractured way, mixing a variety of images that appear to draw from current activity, flashbacks and envisioned futures (some even of a fantasy nature), all thrown together in a somewhat haphazard fashion that constitutes more muddle than riddle. One can readily assume that this jumble of imagery is indicative of what’s going on in the protagonist’s mind, but that’s not always clear nor is the cause for it. Thankfully, the filmmaker manages to tie up all of the various strands by picture’s end, but it asks viewers to go back and reassemble the pieces that lead its conclusion, and, frankly, that seems like an awful lot of work to go through after a protracted stretch of film where it’s easy for audience members to lose interest. To its credit, this release provides an excellent showcase for Krieps, backed by gorgeous cinematography and a superb classical music score, as well as its fine opening sequence. But these strengths aren’t enough to compensate for the shortcomings and an overall approach that often seems contrived and certainly sacrifices substance for style. This is the kind of picture that will definitely appeal to the arthouse crowd, but average moviegoers are likely to find it pretentious, self-important and needlessly cryptic, qualities that detract from what could have been more involving had the filmmakers kept matters simpler and less enigmatic.