The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Marriage Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 26, 1993 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - Australia  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Costello

Gillian Armstrong is often thought of as a feminist director, and while this film does focus on a woman, the director's methods are too ambiguous and subtle and her effects too complex to allow this brilliant anatomy of the end of a relationship to be thought of as a women's film. The film presents a situation not uncommon in the kind of bohemian ménage it depicts, one which usually works to the disadvantage of the wife: when the couple reaches a certain age, the husband is without the guilt or hypocrisy which often prevents his more conventional counterparts from looking elsewhere for fulfillment, sexual or otherwise. Beth (Lisa Harrow), a successful Australian writer, knows that her marriage to the egotistical J.P. Bruno Ganz is winding down, and that their issues may be insurmountable, but it's not until her younger sister, Vicki (Kerry Fox), arrives that the wheels of change begin to move. In a film that portrays all three of these characters as being restless, dissatisfied, vaguely resentful and ready for change, there's remarkably little melodrama or anger in the way things develop. Events flow naturally, and little seems to be happening, but Armstrong's camera is a keen observer of the quick glances, expressions of hurt, and shifting body language that reveal exactly what's under the skin of its characters. It's a measure of the film's success that when it's over, we don't dislike any of these people, even the potentially repellent J.P. or the ditsy Vicki, but see that everything simply happened as it had to.