The Refuge -- Film Review

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Francois Ozon's latest inquiry into the human predicament, "The Refuge," is a quiet, contemplative movie that delves into the strange journeys love can take. It's virtually a two-hander as the only characters who matter are a pregnant recovering junkie and the brother of her late lover, who died in an overdose. Over a summer, in the woman's refuge by the sea, the two grow to understand, appreciate and possibly even love one another although they are haunted by two others -- the dead brother and his unborn child.

Ozon has admirers in several markets outside Europe so the film could earn modest boxoffice in adult venues besides France. This is not one of his more dramatic films, however, so modest is the word.

Everyone here seems to come from wealthy families so such mundane matters as jobs or responsibilities never intrude. Why Mousse (Isabelle Carre) and Louis (Melvil Poupaud) do drugs at all is never explored. They just do and Louis winds up dead while Mousse is hospitalized where her pregnancy is discovered.

Louis' mother makes it clear she wants no descendent from her late son. Yet some months later the brother, Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy), shows up unexpectedly at Mousse's splendid seaside get-away and seems actually happy she plans to keep the baby.

Paul initiates a passionate affair with a local man (Pierre Louis-Calixte), but this doesn't prevent him and Mousse from growing closer despite initial wariness on her part. There are hints of a troubled family lives in their pasts, but the two find comfort in each other's presence as the pregnancy progresses.

The acting here is lovely and understated. Carre shows how her character plays things close to the vest, revealing as little as possible of her real emotions, but they bubble out sometimes anyway. Choisy's Paul is a more open soul, who eagerly shares his thoughts and troubles with Mousse.

There is a love story here but not as one might imagine. Mousse sees flashes of her lover in his brother just as Paul sees what his brother found in Mousse.

The final moments in the story, written by the director and Mathieu Hippeau, and the decision Mousse makes, will cause mixed reactions. One can nevertheless see what brings her to that choice.

As this is an Ozon production, behind the camera credits are so smooth that technique becomes invisible.

Production companies: Eurowide Film Production
Cast: Isabelle Carre, Louis-Ronan Choisy, Pierre Louis-Calixte, Melvil Poupaud
Director: Francois Ozon
Screenwriters: Francois Ozon, Mathieu Hippeau
Producers: Claudie Ossart, Chris Bozzli
Director of photography: Mathias Raaflaub
Production designer: Katia Wyszkop
Music: Louis-Ronan Choisy
Editor: Muriel Breton
Sales: Le Pacte
No rating, 88 minutes
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