Manager Mathieu Amalric (a famous actor from “Quantum of Solace,” “The diving bell and the butterfly,” and many more) plays with perception in his excellent drama “Hold Me Tight,” which makes it hard to review without spoiling the big reveal that comes about a third of the way through, but I’ll do my best. Suffice it to say that Amalric uses the power of film in his adaptation of Claudine Galea’s play to do things that would not be possible in any other form. His drama moves through time, space and even imagination in a way that begins to become clearer but also resists traditional interpretation. We’ve been trained to look for clues and “solve” movies, but “Hold Me Tight” really opens up when you start admiring it emotionally instead of logically. It’s a powerful piece of work with poetic direction and incredible work from Krieps, an actress who increasingly feels like she’s never going to miss out.
As Clarisse looks to start a new life on the coast, “Hold Me Tight” cuts back to her family, including her husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) and children Lucie (Juliette Benveniste/Anne-Sophie Bowen-The chat) and Paul (Aurele Grzesik/Sacha Ardilly). Lucie plays the piano and Paul plays in the yard adjusting to life without their mother. Or are they? Again, it’s hard to explain what happens in “Hold Me Tight,” but you should know that it’s not a traditional melodrama about a broken family. There’s a lyricism to the scenes at home, snapshots of family life that no longer exist for Clarisse, and just the sense of disconnection between her and the family builds a palpable emotional energy before the film’s twist delivers its gut punch.
From the beginning, something is not quite right with Clarisse. She tricks a stranger with his son for mistreating him; she grabs ice cream from a fish market and covers her face with it. It starts to become clear that “Hold Me Tight” is playing with everything. It jumps in time and even reality, becoming somewhat more and more lyrical, even as it seems to answer questions about “what is really happening.” It’s a daring, complex journey for any actress, and Krieps is fearlessly able to roll with it, working with Amalric to be organic and grounded just enough to keep the film from spinning off into the poetic ether. It’s hard to anchor a film with so many emotional and practical distractions to keep the character from being a pawn to the filmmaking, but Krieps never falters.