- Movie Rating -

Revoir Paris (2023)

| June 25, 2023

The other day my local news reported a memorial for a mass shooting.  I asked my wife a startling question, “Which mass shooting are they talking about?”  She didn’t know.  There have been so many lately that I can’t tell one from another.  It is startling to think that they have become part of our reality.  That was my immediate question.  My lingering question was “How does someone get on with their lives in the wake of something that horrifying?”  Trauma does strange things to the human brain.

It is odd that in proximity to that question comes French director Alice Winocour’s intriguing drama Revoir Paris which views that struggle from the inside out and from several points of view.  The result is a challenging experience, laid bare through a narrative that moves back and forth in time and from the differing points of view of several people who were present one day when a madman walked into a public place and started shooting at random.

Our conduit is Mia (Virginie Efira) a young woman who, in early scenes, rides a motorcycle around Paris and is also seen at work where she is a Russian translator.  There’s an energy in her movements, in her smile and in her passive manner of moving about her surroundings.  Then, it happens.  She walks into a busy bistro and has lunch by herself.  She begins writing in her notebook and soon notices that she has ink on her hands.  She goes to the ladies room to wash them.  Then she hears shots, screaming, chaos.  As she tries to escape there are dead bodies and, among them, a killer with no apparent agenda but to kill as many people as possible.

The way that this scene plays out is kind of interesting.  It is not a thrilling action scene along the vein of the recently released Extraction 2 (see this movie instead of that one).  The events are shot from Mia’s point of view.  The editing and the camera angles give you the sense of impending danger and of the randomness of the crime.  Mia survives but is injured, but we’re not sure what actually happened, neither is she.

It sounds like I’m giving a lot away, but that’s only the set-up.  The recovery is really what the film is about.  Mia, in the months following the shooting, doesn’t remember anything.  Her mind seems to have kicked into a full-wipe survival mode and removed the incident all together.  Now part of a support group, she tries to figure out what happened.  Fragments of memory keep coming back, and she tracks down other survivors who can possibly fill the gaps.  The other survivors seem to have differing accounts, different memories.  All were in different places.  One particularly angry woman makes a startling accusation of Mia that may or may not be true.  Another is a man who was shot in the leg – he’s very frank about his experience.  She also meets a teenage girl with whom she forms the kind of bond that can only come between people who have shared a specific trauma.

I was not expecting Mia’s journey to go where it ultimately went.  Yes, this is a movie about the aftermath of a mass shooting, but it argues strongly that the bond of human beings is stronger than a man with a gun, that what the survivors experience together when they bond over their tragedy represents the best of what human beings can do for each other.

And YET!  This is not done in a cloying or overly melodramatic way.  Winocour shows us things and introduces us to individuals and gives us a narrative that sometimes seems to be starting over from the beginning.  Each witness is different, and so are their stories.  When it is over, we don’t have the complete picture, but it is complete enough.  Mia and the others have arrived at a particular place, not of closing the book, but of moving over the most difficult chapters.  It is not a movie that ends with a lot of hugs and tears.  Life goes on for these people.  They remember.  They heal.  And they hold memorial services.

I was thinking about this film for a very long time after it was over.  I thought back to that news report and I imagine that everyone at that memorial has different ways of dealing with that tragedy.  It made me sad that such a thing as mass shooting is commonplace in our society, but it made me glad that there are people with the capacity to believe that there is healing in the wake of such terrible incidents.  It sounds odd, but here is a movie with a shooting at one end, and hope at the other.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2023) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Foreign