Tribeca Movie Review: The Premonition

The following movie was screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

The Premonition

The Premonition (Le Pressentiment)
Discovery, Narrative
2006, France
Dir: Jean-Pierre Darroussin

A beautiful piece from actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin, who makes his first attempt at directing with this wonderful adaptation of Emmanuel Bove’s novel of the same title, The Premonition casts a striking look at modern day France and the perils its beastly class system projects upon its citizens. Darroussin brilliantly portrays Charles Bénesteau, a wealthy Parisian lawyer who has made the decision of abandoning his cushy, bourgeois lifestyle and moves into a blue-collared neighborhood with a predominantly immigrant population.

Darroussin’s character is fed up with the narrow-minded mentality of the elite and all the lavish abuses they commit; he wants to escape. He searches for isolation as a means to understanding, while also using the experience to write. He flees to a homely apartment where he sets up his residence and mixes with the locals. The divide between the haves and the have-nots can be witnessed right from the get go. Bénesteau is visited by a neighbor who wants to get a divorce from his wife and seeks advice, but ends up taking advantage of Bénesteau by asking him for cold hard cash. This same neighbor beats his wife senselessly and is taken away, leaving behind a teenage daughter who conveniently falls into the lap of Bénesteau.

While rejecting his ex-wife and attempting to avoid his siblings, who are nauseated by their brother’s new way of life, Bénesteau revels in caring for his newly found friend. He brings in another neighbor to take care of the girl while he is out, and bombards the young girl with gifts and constant outings. His relationship with the girl causes a stir among the community and harsh rumors are spread about them, but Bénesteau is completely oblivious to it all and comes out winning.

A sublimely structured film with bouts of awkward moments and aloof characters, one gets the impression that some of the scenes make no sense whatsoever; that they don’t add up. But the ending reels it all in, leaving the viewer totally satisfied. As Bénesteau, Darroussin puts on a wonderfully subdued performance, never overextending his boundaries and recognizing his character’s limitations and mannerisms astutely. You get the feeling that Darroussin was tailored with precision to play this role.

A biting critique on the impulses and urges of the upper class, The Premonition does not falter. We see Bénesteau proudly smile, as the mother of the young teenage girl, upon leaving the hospital, thanks him for all that he has done. He gloats vividly in having done the good deed, and mentally pats himself on the back; his social experiment has proven to be productive. His exodus from the upper echelon of society has brought him satisfaction and awareness. Bénesteau has provided for those less fortunate than him, and in doing so, has lived among them and survived. Success.

An astounding cinematic work.

/Film Rating: 10 out of 10

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