A Common Thread Review
17-year-old Claire (Naymark) is dismayed to discover that she is five and a half months pregnant, but decides to give the baby up for adoption. Preferring to avoid the drama of discovery that would rock her small village, she gives up her supermarket job and, disguising her growing belly, seeks out Madame Melikian (Ascaride), a local embroiderer. Claire’s one true passion is for embroidery, and Madame Melikian reluctantly gives her a job.
Madame has sorrows of her own. Famed amongst the couturiers of Paris, Madame recently lost her only son (and assistant) in a motorbike accident, and has sunk into a depression borne of grief. Almost against her better judgement, Claire drags her back to life. Working together, the two begin to enjoy a quiet companionship even as their design, a commission for Christian Lacroix, takes shape.
And that’s about it as far as the plot’s concerned! A Common Thread is founded on the very flimsy story of a girl, a baby, and some embroidery, and fails to captivate or to convince. Why does it take so long for Claire to realise she’s pregnant? We’ve all read stories of women with indigestion suddenly giving birth, but Claire’s body is visibly changing – all her co-workers at the supermarket mock her for putting on weight, and she lies to them that she has cancer – it’s the drugs that are making her fat – going so far as to pull out a lock of her thick curly hair in order to prove it.
The film reaches for a kind of lyrical, dream-like quality that is often at odds with the subject matter. I don’t know what ante-natal care is like in France but it seems unlikely that the doctor who examines Claire would let her leave without a further appointment. It also seems unbelievable that Claire’s mother doesn’t notice her growing bump when complete strangers seem to have no trouble spotting it. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing the point and insisting on a literalism that isn’t there. Clearly the baby is a metaphor for new life but it’s a) quite trite and b) an odd fit with shots like the close-up of Claire’s swollen belly as she plucks out one of those thick dark hairs that pregnant women get.
Claire’s universal hostility to other people is never really explained. Something has obviously gone badly wrong with her family but we never really find out what has caused the rift. This is exacerbated by Lola Naymark’s one-note performance. She seems to believe that a nun-like demureness equates to mystery and depth of character and walks around with her eyes permanently downcast, a small, irritatingly sly smile on her lips. Ariane Ascaride is better as Madame Melikian, but is hampered by the script. The other characters have so little screentime that they have no chance to make an impression, the one exception being Thomas Laroppe as Guillaume, the brother of Claire’s best friend, who survives the crash that kills Madame’s son and is wracked with guilt. He and Claire enjoy a brief and pointless intimacy.
The whole film feels like this. It tries so hard to be profound, but the slightness of its themes leaves the whole project sadly weightless and ultimately superficial.
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