sun 23/06/2024

Hold Me Tight review - Vicky Krieps mesmerises | reviews, news & interviews

Hold Me Tight review - Vicky Krieps mesmerises

Hold Me Tight review - Vicky Krieps mesmerises

Reality and imagination merge in a drama about a woman unravelling

Driven to despair: Vicky Krieps as Clarisse at the wheel of her 1978 AMC Pacer MUBI

Mathieu Amalric's Hold me Tight (Serre moi fort) keeps springing surprises. Perhaps the first is the title. It sounds like an invitation to settle down with the popcorn to enjoy a light French film dealing with intimacy. 

Not even close. It's a quote from a song by Étienne Daho. Apparently, Amalric could just as well have called it the opposite: “Serre moins fort” (hug less tight). He has also said the ideal title (“if it hadn’t already been taken” by Douglas Sirk) would have been Imitation of Life.

That is telling. The film is a melodrama, a constant emotional close-up of a life uprooted, but we find out progressively that some of what happens is not real but imagined by the protagonist, Clarisse (Vicky Krieps). Flashes backwards and forwards in time, sometimes obvious, sometimes not, are a constant feature.

Clarisse says more than once (in voiceover) that she has imagined scenes – that they didn't occur. Places that look real can be invented. For example, announcements about an imminent train arrival in Paris preface Clarisse’s music student daughter Lucie exiting her coach to attend an important audition. But it's an illusion. Rather than being in a Paris terminus, the train is still under construction in the factory where Clarisse’s husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) formerly worked.

Lucie, played by Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet (pictured above) as a child and by Juliette Benveniste as a teenager, is pivotal. She pursues music obsessively. After seeing the 2012 documentary Bloody Daughter, Stéphanie Argerich's portrait of her world-famous pianist mother Martha Argerich, Lucie adopts a streaked grey hair style in imitation of her idol. Lucie's playing of the first movement from Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Musica Ricercata” (actually played by Benveniste) drives the plot savagely and destructively forward.

Amalric adapted Hold Me Tight from Claudine Galea's play Je Reviens de Loin, which has been produced for radio but never been done on stage. Amalric has talked about been brought to tears by its script. He was influenced by Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers in showing how Clarisse wanders through her life as a detached observer, even sometimes as an unwelcome imposter.

The biggest surprise is how the movie draws you in, even though – or maybe because – Amalric leaves all kinds of misleading clues lying around. Krieps (best known from Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 Phantom Thread) is mesmerising in a role that required her to be on camera almost permanently. Amalric skilfully harnesses Christophe Beaucarne's cinematography and integrates story strands and musical threads to trace the journey of a women whom despair constantly brings to the edge.

The audience does need to work to unravel the movie's puzzles. God forbid, it'll probably end up as material for dissertations about oneiric time in film à la Roland Barthes. But that will be a shame because it's a film that asks to be felt and experienced rather than pored over. The power and honesty of Krieps’s performance demands that it be experenced more than once.


Clarisse wanders through her life as a detached observer, even as an unwelcome imposter


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters