While Russian translator Mia (Virginie Efira, "Benedetta") is dining with her doctor partner Vincent (Grégoire Colin, "Beau Travail"), he gets a call, then tells her he must return to work because an intern is overwhelmed. Motorcycling home, Mia is caught in a downpour and so ducks into a bistro to wait it out. With no warning, a masked man opens fire with an automatic weapon and Mia finds herself crawling amidst dead bodies as he continues to take stock. Mia survives the ordeal with little memory of it, but a support group forges new connections that help to put the pieces back together in ‘Revoir Paris.”
Laura's Review: B
Cowriter (with Jean-Stéphane Bron, Marcia Romano)/director Alice Winocour’s ("Augustine") sensitive portrayal of the after effects of trauma is dedicated to her brother Jérémie, who survived the 2015 Bataclan concert hall massacre. While her depiction of the bistro massacre is horrific, it is shown from Mia’s perspective on the floor (cinematographer by Stéphane Fontaine, “Ammonite”) and is not the focus of the film. Instead Winocour illustrates how Mia immediately feels isolated and then slowly works her way back into living with the support of those who shared her experience, even finding a silver lining (or ‘the diamond in the trauma’ as this film puts it).
After taking the massacre scene to black, Winocour reunites us with Mia giving a birthday party for Vincent. She’s in the same kitchen we first met her in (breaking a cup, one of a few foreshadowings of what was to come), but the act of lighting the candles on his cake unnerves her and she asks a friend to take over (we’d seen a restaurant patron, Thomas (Benoît Magimel, "Pacifiction"), having a birthday cake delivered before the shooting began). Afterwards, she tells Vincent she feels like an ‘attraction,’ friends’ concern mixed with a desire to hear an insider account.
She finds herself walking past L’Etoile d’or, reopened for business with patrons inside and is compelled to go in. She learns from a bartender that meetings are held there on Mondays for ‘people like her’ and surprises herself by returning, only to first be asked to move her seat by a young teen, Félicia (Nastya Golubeva, "Annette"), whose parents had been sitting there that night and who caught Mia in the reflection of their selfie. Then she’s accused by an irate woman of locking herself in the bathroom and not allowing anybody else in. Shook, Mia begins to leave, but Sara (Maya Sansa), the group’s organizer, points to a man outside who has asked to talk to her. It is Thomas.
Winocour makes a strong case for the need for trauma survivors to support each other, a phenomenon we usually see depicted with war veterans. But she’s also painting a picture of Paris, one about to be irrevocably changed, the romance of reflected city lights at night set to the melancholy refrains of Arvo Pärt's 'Fratres for Strings and Percussion,' the piece which begins and ends her film, setting the complex mood beautifully. Like the men who return home from war unable to confide in those at home, Efira retreats from a distraught Vincent, moving into a friend’s vacant apartment (her instincts will prove deep rooted). She’ll visit Thomas during his stints in the hospital (his shattered shin is being rebuilt in stages) where his wife, Estelle (Dolores Chaplin), seems both angered by her presence and resigned to the dissolution of her marriage (‘He doesn’t know it, but I do – this will be the end of us.’). Vincent encourages her to use the Memoria page set up to help survivors and it is in listening to him remember details of the evening, like how her pen leaked over her hands making him laugh, that jolt her memories, the one disproving she locked herself in the bathroom proving most meaningful and moving, and which allows Winocour to add yet another layer to her portrait of Paris – that of the undocumented.
Efira, who won the Best Actress Cesar for this role, conveys her character’s shell shock, her disconnect from her former daily life in the way she flinches from the familiar and the compassion she shows for the orphaned Félicia. Her connection with Thomas becomes her joy, Magimel’s ability to exhibit both sorrow and humor in his memories opening the door for intimacy and laughter. Her obsession in finding the Senegalese cook who held her hand after she’d been shot is almost a mini movie unto itself and the wordless exchange she finally has with Assane (Amadou Mbow, "Atlantics") at the Eiffel Tower is, well, everything. “Revoir Paris” is an ode to the innocent in the City of Lights.
Robin's Review: B
Mia (Virginie Efira), driving home on her motorcycle one rainy night, stops at a local restaurant to have a drink and wait out the storm. Then, there are gunshots and pandemonium breaks out, but the events of that fateful night are an unremembered blur for young woman in “Revoir Paris.”
The story does not specifically mention the 13 November 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo publication office and other Parisian locales, killing many innocents. But, it is obvious that this is the day Mia lived through and she wiped from her memory.
Three months later and Mia is attending a meeting of survivors of the day. One of the other victims demands that she leave, that she hid in the bathroom that day, locking others out. Since she cannot remember what exactly happened, she makes the big decision to rebuild those “memories” of what she forgot.
“Revoir Paris” is about Mia’s journey to remember what unfolded that day, especially after the devastating accusation made against her. As she tries to track down another survivor, a Senegalese waiter (Amadou Mbow) from the day of the attack, to try to find closure and answers.
During her spiritual trek, she returns to the cafe and scene of the crime. There, she is told that many victims come back to that deadly place to find answers – or just to put old ghosts to bed. It is a hard trip to make, but the results, for Mia, are startling.
Virginie Efira, whom I am not familiar with, does a fine job giving arc and development to Mia’s character. The fear and confusion of finding out just what happened that fateful day are palpable, making me want her to find closure and release. Non-spoiler: she does.
Music Box Films’ “Revoir Paris” is being shown in the Boston French Film Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts – click here for the schedule.
Click here for other theatrical engagements.