Peaceful (De son vivant) Image

Peaceful (De son vivant)

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | October 30, 2022

Director Emmanuelle Bercot’s magnificent Peaceful takes the audience on the voyage of no return that is terminal illness. It opens upon an emotional support group for medical professionals led by Dr. Edde (Gabriel A. Sara). Hospital workers describe the secondary trauma they experience working daily around the dying and their relatives. Dr. Edde helps them process these feelings and then flushes them out with a sing-a-long of classic English language pop songs.

The doctor then sees Ben (Benoit Magimel), who is accompanied by his mother, Crystal (Catherine Deneuve). Dr. Edde informs Ben that his pancreatic cancer has advanced to stage four, and at this point, treatments can help only to put off the inevitable. Crystal still clings to the hope for a cure, while Ben still carries some denial over how much time he really has. He continues his renowned acting class, coaching young actors to fully achieve presence when performing. Dr. Edde and nurse Eugenie (Cecile de France) guide Ben’s care during his chemotherapy treatments.

“…informs Ben that his pancreatic cancer has advanced…treatments can help only to put off the inevitable.”

However, behind Ben’s back, Crystal has contacted Anna (Melissa George), the mother of Ben’s son, Leandre (Oscar Morgan). Leandre has never met Ben as he was a teenager at the time, and Leandre grew up in another country. Anna hates Crystal, but the young boy decides to travel to France to be near his father. Leandre meets with Dr. Edde but informs him that he doesn’t want Ben to know. Because they have never met, Leandre feels it is too late to try to connect finally. Meanwhile, the seasons change, and Ben gets worse.

As many-splendored as life is, it is a surprise when one of those splendors is a French film about dying. I won’t lie. I was dreading screening this film due to the subject matter. The girl I went to prom with would later travel to France to die of cancer, so the whole premise seemed touchy as Hell. Also, in the States, films about dying are mostly relegated to TV movies like Brian’s Song. Such efforts tend to be heavy-handed on manipulative, syrupy endeavors that retread the obvious unfairness until the lead expires. This is not at all what I found in Peaceful. An aura of elegance and grace permeates this journey into oblivion.

Peaceful (De son vivant) (2022)

Directed: Emmanuelle Bercot

Written: Emmanuelle Bercot, Marcia Romano

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Benoit Magimel, Gabriel A. Sara, Cecile de France, Oscar Morgan, Melissa George, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Peaceful (De son vivant) Image

"…elegance and grace permeates this journey into oblivion."

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