CORTEGA | The Great North | 03/06/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, not everyone is a fan of foreign films, as they sort of have a certain flavor so different from American films. Having said that, this film is like that. I can see why people like it, and why people don't like it.
Catherine Deneuve is the divorced mother of Mathieu, a young man who is killed in a car accident. Mathieu's friend, Franck, was driving the car but managed to escape the accident unscathed. At the funeral, after everyone leaves, Catherine stays behind and finds her way to the location of the accident. There, she runs into Franck, who is placing flowers and did not feel he could go to the funeral and be welcome. Catherine takes him to her home where there is a post-funeral gathering, and everyone there shows their unhappiness and sometimes rage to see Franck among them.
Catherine on the other hand cannot spend enough time with Franck. She wants to spend time with him, she has him relay the details of the crash to her down to Matthieu's final moments, she wants to go to concerts with him, anything to spend time with Franck. And, he is lost and remorseful and sort of just accepts her presence and need to be around him. She goes so far as to inquire at the university how Franck's grades are and becomes determined that he not drop out of classes, which he has done since the accident. She finds him working for his father and tries to make the father understand that Franck needs to be at the university, but the father doesn't care and is happy for Franck's cheap labor to the family business. Desperate, Catherine then goes to Franck's mother and makes a deal with her whereby she will pay Franck a wage to work at her bookstore, while paying half of the wage to Franck's parents if they'll let him work for her.
While her ex-husband and other family members are concerned for Catherine, they cannot reach her even though they see she isn't grieving in a way they find normal. They try to talk about it with her from time to time but Catherine will not have any of it and dismisses them out of hand. They are going on with their lives, while her life has become all about Franck. When she tries to get Franck to recreate the crash scenario with her beside him in the car, Franck has had enough and walks away from her, clearly not wanting to be part of her grief anymore. But, Catherine continues to follow him and check on him, calling his home over and over until Franck's parents are annoyed by her. One night Franck comes home late and his mother tells him that Catherine keeps calling and calling. When the phone rings again, it is Catherine and Franck tells his mother to tell her he isn't home. After his mother goes to bed, Franck goes outside, knowing Catherine must be parked outside watching his movements. He soon finds her and asks her what she's doing, but what can she say? She hands him concert tickets and they wind up going to the concert and just like that they are back in each other's lives.
At some point, Catherine talks Franck into burning down the tree that Franck and her son crashed into, and he does it while she watches even though he doesn't understand the level of her grief. They are arrested but Catherine's ex-husband manages to get her released on the condition agreed to by Franck's parents, that Catherine stay completely away from Franck.
Now that Catherine can no longer be around Franck, she is a lost and starts hanging around young people that knew her son or are her son's age. She hangs around at the university, maybe hoping to see Franck, but she is clearly out of place there. She holds readings at her bookstores that young people attend and though they are kind to her, they don't really want her hanging out with them at their coffee meets, even though they may feel sorry for her loss and understand her need to be near them.
At one point she is in her bookstore going over orders with a seller when she sees Franck's parents outside. She excuses herself and goes out to find they are returning a scooter that Catherine had purchased and had delivered for Franck's birthday. They tell her to stay away from their son and she insists she hasn't seen him, only had the scooter delivered. They refuse it and leave. She starts walking down the street, walking the scooter a long way, until exhausted she stops on a bridge and starts yelling to anyone who passes that they can have the scooter. The people just look at her like she's crazy.
When her daughter has a baby, we see the family in the hospital room cooing over the newborn, but Catherine is so distracted she doesn't even pay attention that she has a grandson, though he is the first grandchild. Her ex-husband is there and happy over the new baby, but Catherine can't get into the happy atmosphere at all. The baby is handed to her and she dutifully sits for a picture but quickly hands the baby back and tells them she has to leave. When Catherine finds that same daughter in her home cleaning, Catherine becomes annoyed and tells her she doesn't need her cleaning up after her. But, the daughter just keeps cleaning and asks Catherine to make them some tea. The daughter asks if she saw the baby when she came in, but Catherine had been too distracted to even notice the baby. Suddenly, Catherine tells her daughter to leave. The daughter yells at Catherine that no matter how Catherine tries to push her away, she isn't going anywhere. Angry, Catherine demands that the daughter leave her key and get out, going to far as to shove the daughter (who is holding the newborn) and yelling at her to go.
We later see Catherine back at the university where she asks a student if she can walk with him. She had seen him before but he had thought her strange and rebuffed her the first time. Now he says sure, he was on his way to the bus stop. As they turn to leave, her cell phone rings and she is soon agreeing to board a flight and meet with someone. She dismisses the student she had meant to walk with and we next see her in a cab giving directions to a certain street, where she is let out. The day is bright and beautiful and clearly in another city from where she lives.
She finds the correct address and tells the woman who runs the boarding house that she is looking Franck's room. The woman asks who she is and Catherine tells her she is his mother. The woman indicates the room number and as she turns away, it seems the woman doesn't believe that Catherine is Franck's mother, as she kind of clucks to herself.
We next see Catherine enter Franck's room, so we know the person on the phone had been Franck telling her where to find him, therefore we also know that he had been missing her also. It is very airy and pleasant in appearance and Franck is asleep on the bed. The picture on the DVD cover of Franck is the shot of him in that scene. Catherine quietly kneels at his side and softly touches his hair and face, but doesn't awaken him. She then goes into the bathroom, looks in the mirror, and she takes down her hair and lets fall loosely about her shoulders. Then, she goes back to the room and sits down next to the bed, and the camera zooms to her face and eyes. Her look is such that you are left to interpret what is to come. Will she begin a deeper relationship with Franck? The way she let her hair loose seems to suggest this, but it is left for interpretation. I tend to think yes, as the obsession between her and Franck had progressed to the point that even Franck didn't want to be without her anymore.
Interesting movie, but not for everyone."