Vicky Krieps is a quiet tour de force in her latest Hold Me Tight. You can see in the film’s opening scene as she sets the table for her two kids’ breakfast in the pre-dawn light. She leaves out cereal and a shopping list for her husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter), looking down as if in doubt, and then she leaves with no indication she is coming back.
Like last year’s The Lost Daughter, we immediately question Clarisse’s intentions. Why is she leaving? Does she need a break? Is there someone else? Did her husband take a lover? Director Mathieu Amalric wants us to judge her as she drives off. But this is not a story of lack of maternal instinct, but one of loss and survival.
What once seems like two separate stories of a mother liberated and the family she left behind struggling to cope, eventually seamlessly feed off each other. There’s a scene where Clarrise dunks her face into ice chips then her son gets into the bath. Amalric leaves little connections like this in his edit with François Gédigier. As Clarisse and her family cling to the memories of one another, the real and the imaginary become entangled with one another.
Hold Me Tight’s premise is ripe for melodrama but Krieps never gives in. She is vulnerable and open, yet understated. Her grounded portrayal oozes a humane likability whether she is doting on her daughter or enjoying being alone. She works in tandem with Amalric’s direction in a way very few actors can, each taking a different approach to reach a cinematic tone.
Based on Claudine Galera’s play I’m Coming Back from Afar, Amalric’s script and directing style proves he is more than the actor we’ve seen in The French Dispatch, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Quantum of Solace. Amalric proves he is a master of color composition with Hold Me Tight’s hazy and moody blues and burnt oranges. This palette softens in the film’s final scenes as the clues Amalric has been leaving throughout its runtime finally come to fruition. He takes a long way there, his pacing slightly slower than desired. The final revelation, however, is a burst of emotion that Krieps delivers with gusto and poise. For those along for the ride, everything pays off the final fifteen minutes and stays with you for much longer.