Dir. Lola Doillon, France, 2010, 81 mins, in French with English subtitles
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Pio Marmaï
Review by Eva Moravetz
One admirable thing about French cinema is that it gives older actresses much greater scope for tackling interesting, complex parts that are often allocated to younger women in American (and more frequently British) films – sometimes even requiring some suspension of disbelief in tender beauties barely in their twenties with tremendous aplomb and life experience. Kristin Scott Thomas, who after the success of The English Patient (1996) gradually became stuck in supporting roles of cold, female intellectuals, seems to be thriving in her adopted country taking centre stage after centre stage in stimulating, critically acclaimed movies like I’ve Loved You So Long (2008), Leaving (2009), Sarah’s Key (2010), The Woman In The Fifth (2011) just to name a few, and now In Your Hands, a film dealing with Stockholm syndrome, emotional damage, loneliness and sexual tension.
Set in present day Paris, the film’s opening sequences show a distraught and dishevelled woman run to a petrol station then return to her own apartment by cab. We soon find out that she’s Anna Cooper (Kristin Scott Thomas), a surgeon, living on her own, whose colleagues are worried because she hasn’t returned from her holiday. The truth is that Anna was abducted and held captive by a stranger; her ordeal is then shown in a long flashback taking up the largest chunk of the film. A young widower, Yann (Pio Marmaï), whose wife died during a Caesarean performed by Anna, kidnaps the surgeon and keeps her under locks in a dingy, windowless room. Yann is half driven to madness by grief and he wants to take revenge on Anna but it’s not quite clear how he’ll proceed. ‘I want to hurt you but I don’t know how’ he tells her which sets the ominous tone for the time to come. While Anna pines away, terrified and subjected to Yann’s volatile outbursts of brutishness, she also realises that Yann has both emotional depth and soul but, desperate to get out of the powerless imprisonment she’s subjected to, Anna soon escapes. She runs to the police and tells them about her kidnapping but fails to file a report on Yann. Instead, she goes home unable to get him out of her mind. She tracks him down and they get together again…
It would be unfair to spoil the climax and ending of the film but In Your Hands doesn’t have a happy ending. Anna says ‘Outside this room we can’t exist’ which sums up their extraordinary situation that’s disconnected from the outside world, their class and age differences and their previous circumstances. What brings them together is the loneliness that permeates both characters throughout the story: Anna was married once but now lives the life of a solitary professional, and Yann was happily married once but now lives the life of a grief stricken widow; without a wife and a child (whom he rejected sending her to his own mother.)
This is the second feature film of French writer-director Lola Doillon whose intelligent script writing and directing keep the emotional and sexual tension and drama flowing all throughout In Your Hands but without falling into the trap of sentimentalism or the pitfalls of torture porn.
The atmosphere of the film is extremely claustrophobic particularly during Anna’s imprisonment where we never see the events from Yann’s point of view: we’re constantly in Anna’s situation; not knowing where we are or what will come, there’s no natural light and no sense of time.
The acting is excellent, the casting is spot on: Pio Marmaï’s intense and explosive Yann is both menacing and vulnerable and Kristin Scott Thomas as Anna displays a wide array of emotions ranging from fear to defiance and compassion to yearning. A psychosexual drama with Freudian undertones, In Your Hands delivers enough to be both engaging and thought provoking.