Making Plans for Lena -- Film Review



Judging from their endless stream of films about dysfunctional family gatherings, it might be advisable for French people to spend their vacation sans relatives.

The latest example of the increasingly tired genre is Christophe Honore's ("Ma Mere," "Love Songs") "Making Plans for Lena," starring Chiara Mastroianni as a troubled single mother.

Setting out from Paris with her two children for a family holiday in Brittany, Lena promptly loses her son in the crowd. It turns out that he's attending to a wounded bird; though she carefully puts the animal in her bag, it's dead when she arrives, providing no small clue as to her nurturing abilities.

Things don't go much better when she reunites with her relatives, who include her pregnant, troublemaking sister (Marina Fois); her endlessly critical mother (Marie-Christine Barrault); her bohemian younger brother who thinks nothing of embracing her in the nude; and her hostile ex-husband (Jean-Marc Barr).

The filmmaker's method of less-than-subtle character delineation is exemplified by an interlude set in medieval times about a young woman who kills her potential suitors by dancing them to death. But by then, we've already become well aware of the lead character's neurotic, self-destructive tendencies.

Later, the scene shifts back to Paris, where Lena is visited by her new boyfriend (Louis Garrel) as her psychic downward spiral continues.

Mastroianni provides a vividly intense turn in the title role, but the film's narrative diffuseness and excessive stylization defeats her best efforts. Although aficionados of French cinema certainly will appreciate the opportunity to savor the sterling ensemble cast, "Lena" is a misstep from one of that country's most acclaimed filmmakers.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 20 (IFC Films)
Production: Why Not Prods., France Televisions, Le Pacte
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Marina Fois, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jean-Marc Barr, Louis Garrel
Director: Christophe Honore
Screenwriters: Christophe Honore, Genevieve Brisac
Director of photography: Laurent Bruent
Editor: Chantal Hymans
Production designer: Samuel Deshors
Costume designer: Pierre Canitrot
Music: Alex Beaupain
No rating, 105 minutes
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