Not so young wans

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE MID­WIFE (SAGE FEMME) ★★★

Di­rected by Martin Provost. Star­ring Cather­ine Frot, Cather­ine Deneuve, Olivier Gourmet, Quentin Dol­maire, My­lene De­mon­geot. Club, IFI Dublin, Triskel Cork, 117mins Cather­ine Frot is Claire, an up­tight, hard­work­ing mid­wife. She doesn’t drink or smoke. She ap­pears to sub­sist en­tirely on the or­ganic veg­eta­bles she grows on her allotment. She re­buffs the at­ten­tions of Paul (Olivier Gourmet), the kindly truck driver on the neigh­bour­ing gar­den patch. Sur­plus potato sets? Mais, non.

Her son, a med­i­cal stu­dent, in­cites dis­may and no lit­tle pas­sive-ag­gres­sion when he re­veals, among other things, that he has changed his ma­jor. The birthing cen­tre where Claire works is about to close, so she and her col­leagues will have to con­sider em­ploy­ment at a mega-hos­pi­tal that is al­most as bor­ing and cor­po­rate as Claire her­self.

Cather­ine Deneuve is Beatrice, the some­time mis­tress of Claire’s late fa­ther. She’s an in­vet­er­ate gam­bler, a good-time gal, a boozer, and, yes, she’ll have the frites and may­on­naise with that. She turns up to make amends with Claire, whom she hasn’t seen in decades, and to pro­vide some much needed dev­il­ment.

This ought to have been a slam-dunk. A pla­tonic Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie fea­tur­ing not just the grand­est of dames, but all of the Cather­ines, all at once? As writ­ten and di­rected by Martin Provost ( Seraphine, Vi­o­lette), the last of the great mak­ers of what Golden Age Hol­ly­wood quaintly

called women’s pic­tures? Did we men­tion that Beatrice has a brain tu­mour?

The trou­ble is that, struc­turally, the film’s odd-cou­ple dy­namic is de­liv­ered in stops and starts. Deneuve’s char­ac­ter is so side­lined, one half sus­pects she was on what­ever dol­lars-per-nanosec­ond rate they were pay­ing the care­fully-ra­tioned Robert Downey Jr for Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing.

Beatrice’s in­flu­ence on the dull Claire is, sadly, only in­cre­men­tal. Out comes the lip­stick and fi­nally, the truck driver next door is in with a shout. But this means that Claire mag­i­cally goes from be­ing a wagon to merely a dose.

It’s a waste of Frot, an ac­tor so gifted she wiped the floor with Meryl Streep in last year’s great Florence Foster Jenk­ins stand-off. Deneuve mean­while is sad­dled with a clumsy dy­ing-young (wink, wink) sub­plot that splut­ters to­ward a daft de­noue­ment.

Fuddy-duddy: Cather­ine Frot in The Mid­wife

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