(director/writer: Justine Triet; screenwriter: Arthur Harari; cinematographer: Simon Beaufils; editor: Laurent Senechal; cast: Sandra Huller (Sandra Voyter), Swann Arlaud (Maitre Vincent Renzi), Milo Machado Graner (Daniel), Samuel Theis (Samuel Maleski), Jehnny Beth (Marge Berger), Antoine Reinhartz (L’avocat general), Saadia Bentaïeb (Maitre Nour Boudaoud), Camille Rutherford (Zoe Solidor), Anne Rotger (La Presidente du tribunal), Sophie Fillières (Monica); Runtime: 150; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: David Thion/Marie-Ange Luciani; France 2 Cinema; 2023-France-in French, German & English with English subtitles)

“A stirring courtroom psychodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A stirring courtroom psychodrama involving a whodunit murder case over a suspicious death, with only a blind witness.

It’s brilliantly helmed by the French director Justine Triet (“Sibyl”/”Two Ships”) and co-written with Arthur Harari.

The successful but depressed German author Sandra (Sandra Huller, born in East Germany) lives with her French husband Samuel (Samuel Theis), an unsuccessful author, suffering from a writer’s block, and their visually-impaired 11-year-old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) and pet dog Snoop (a border collie), in a remote mountain chalet in the French Alps.
Samuel is trying to get some financial help for the family by converting on his own his gorgeous but unfinished chalet into an Airbnb, as he noisily hammers away. The noise is too much for Sandra to work in, while the kid leaves to take the dog for a walk. When he returns, he finds his dad’s dead body outside the chalet lying on the snowy ground with a head wound.

We learn the couple was not getting along. She blamed her husband for the kid’s blindness, due to an accident, when he was supposed to be watching him as a child but abandoned him. While he resents her for having affairs behind his back and stealing ideas from him that she used in her books.

When the cops arrive, they suspect he was pushed out the window by Sandra, and arrest her.

Facing a trial, she calmly hires a friend, someone secretly in love with her, Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud), to be her lawyer.

The viewer is kept in the dark about her innocence or guilt until the conclusion, as either it’s a suicide or an accidental death, or there might be enough clues to convict her of murder. The court hopes the blind kid can recall something that will either clear or convict his mom, while her lawyer hopes to prove it was a suicide.

Huller’s powerful performance makes this a special whodunit, one that revolves around a troubled marriage. I immensely enjoyed it because of the unique way the trial was conducted and, of course, Huller’s grand performance.

It played at Cannes.