La petite chambre -- Film Review

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LOCARNO, Switzerland -- The circle of life is given warm and redemptive treatment in "La petite chambre," written and directed by Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond. An encounter between a private nurse, who recently lost a child, and an old man tired of living affords each the chance to reassess his fate.

Set in the Swiss town of Lausanne, with the nearby Alps to play a key role before the story is over, it's a showcase for Florence Loiret Caille as the traumatized woman and Michel Bouquet as the grouchy and alienated old gent.

Interest should be strong in international markets and festivals, though it probably is not a powerful enough work to make it an art house hit.

Caille plays Rose, who recently has returned to work after delivering a son still-borne after eight months' pregnancy. Diligent and patient, she does more for her patients than she's strictly supposed to. Bouquet plays one such patient, the hard-nosed Edmond, whose son is about to depart for Chicago and wants to place him in a nursing home.

Meanwhile, Rose's husband, Marc (Eric Caravaca), has a lead on a major advertising-campaign design contract in New York and must go there to cement the deal. He is torn by the conflict between his ambition and concern for his wife.

Writer-directors Chuat and Reymond supply information about the characters subtly so they become fully formed gradually. Rose refuses to think of her lost child as dead, and Edmond declines to show his son the slightest kindness.

As the odd couple of nurse and patient discover more about each other, they develop a peculiar but pleasing kinship. Caille's supple features convey the warm personality that loss has curdled, and Bouquet uses silence and stillness to register a very active mind.

Emre Sevindik's sonorous score, aided by several piano selections from Bach, Beethoven and Sibelius, enhance the impressively textured images of cinematographer Pierre Milon.

Venue: Locarno International Film Festival
Production companies: Vega Film, Iris Prods.
Cast: Michel Bouquet, Florence Loiret Caille, Eric Caravaca
Directors-screenwriters: Stephanie Chuat, Veronique Reymond
Producer: Nicolas Steil
Director of photography: Pierre Milon
Production designer: Daniel Raduta
Music: Emre Sevindik
Costume designer: Magdalena Labuz
Editor: Thierry Faber
Sales agent: Vega Film
No rating, 87 minutes
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