In this the third in a series of largely autobiographical films, Kurys turns the camera on a post second-world war love-triangle between two brothers and the woman they both desire. Pour Une Femme opens with Anne (Sylvie Testud) sorting through her mother’s belongings shortly after her death. In a suitcase she finds a photograph of Léna with a man Anne does not recognise. Flashback to 1947 and a young married couple, Michel (Benoît Magimel) and Léna, (Mélanie Thierry) who are living in the French city of Lyon. While Michel works hard building up a tailoring business, Léna spends the day taking care of their child and running the home. This apparent domestic bliss is shattered when a young man arrives at their door claiming to be Michel’s long-lost younger brother, Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle).
Before long Léna and Jean are exchanging hungry glances and stolen kisses under the nose of a hapless Michel who is eventually forced to choose between giving Léna leave to be with the man she loves or making her stay in a relationship she no longer desires.
Magimel is superb as the husband increasingly out of step with the modern world. Here is Mr Macho, desperately in love with a woman he doesn’t understand. Léna is his Achilles heel and Magimel beautifully portrays the desolation he feels at losing the thing he cares about most in the world. But it’s hard to understand exactly what draws Léna to Jean. Thierry comes across as naive and easily-led while Duvauchelle plays the strong, silent type almost to the point of caricature. Given a choice between the two brothers, is unclear why Léna risks everything to be with Jean.
Kurys has faithfully recreated post-war France as a country trying to rebuild itself politically and socially, but the pivotal storyline between the three main characters is slow and drawn-out with an unnecessary detour into Anne’s search to discover the identity of the mystery man in the photo. While this form of autobiographical narcissism can have significance in a larger context here it cries out for more passion and a large shot of adrenaline. In cinemas in France: 3/07/2013
DVD subtitled in English