The elegant widow Hélène (Edith Scob) lives alone with her faithful housekeeper in the cherished family home – a rambling country property outside of Paris. For her seventieth birthday, all her children and grandchildren come for a brief visit. Emphasizing their perpetual absence, they give her a portable telephone the mechanics of which baffle her. “You must set it up for me, before you go.”Hélène takes aside her eldest, Frédéric (Charles Berling) to explain her wishes for the estate, pointing out the most valuable art objects and emphasizing that the family should not feel tied to the old and costly house. Frédéric doesn’t want to listen; she is too young, he claims. He loves the house and assures her that the family will keep it. Moments later, the families pile into cars and race off. With the new phone still unconnected, Hélène is alone again, smoking in the evening gloom. Six months later, they gather once more for Hélène’s funeral. Single and living in the United States, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is sulky and rootless. Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) is entrepreneurial and is planning to live in Asia. Neither want to keep the house, and both could use the money from its sale. Frédéric is shattered by their indifference to the family and its traditions, but he cannot afford to buy them out. His wife sympathizes and waits. He loses the negotiatons. Yet, being the eldest and the only sib in France, he is forced to preside over the sale and dismantling of the property he loves. 


An astonishingly beautiful film about a typically dysfunctional family. Several themes are relevant to the users of this database: aging parents, death denial, communication between siblings, objects as stimulus to memory, varying perspectives on the same past, and the nature of tradition.Tiny ironies convey a subtext of humour. The faithful housekeeper is invited to choose any object she wishes. Not wanting to overstep her due, she selects an old vase that Frédéric later realizes was one of his mother’s most valuable possessions. The ending is ambiguous and (for this viewer) disappointing. The grandchildren take advantage of one last fling at the home, inviting a swarm of young people with little understanding and less care for the special place. A granddaughter leads her boyfriend on a ramble away from the annoying crowd that she herself had summoned. As the camera moves upward to pan the fields and trees, she begins a seemingly indifferent interpretation of the family story embedded in that place.Was Hélène right to tell Frédéric to sell the house and avoid acrimony? Should he have listened? Or was he wrong not to ruin himself in preserving it for the next generation whose opinions were never invited?


In French with English Subtitles; an English remake is planned

Primary Source

E1 Entertainment




MK2 Productions

Running Time (in minutes)