Madame de Sévigné | Never without my daughter

When her daughter leaves Paris with her husband to escape his influence, a marquise begins to write to her every day.

Between 1671, the year of her daughter’s departure for Provence, and 1696, the year of her death, the Marquise Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, better known as Madame de Sévigné (Karin Viard), wrote more than 760 letters to her daughter Françoise (Ana Girardot). Without knowing it, the ardent letter writer, who frequented the same salons as Madame de La Fayette (Noémie Lvovsky) and Monsieur de La Rochefoucauld (Robin Renucci), would offer French literature her most beautiful letters.

The homonymous feature film dedicated to him by director Isabelle Brocard (My night companion) and his co-writer Yves Thomas (Saint-Cyr, by Patricia Mazuy), however, gives very little space to the lady’s literary genius. At least they spare us the trivial details regarding the lifestyle of the Marquise, who took as much pleasure in recounting to her daughter the gossip of the Sun King’s court as her digestive problems.

The object of her mother’s adoration, Françoise feels crushed by this freedom-loving woman, who shines in society thanks to her lively spirit and presents her as an extension of herself. Inseparable until the late marriage (for the time) of Françoise with the Count of Grignan (Cédric Kahn), appointed lieutenant-general of Provence by Louis XIV, the two women experienced many arguments and reconciliations during a colossal correspondence and intense reunions.

Madame de Sévigné appears unfriendly in the eyes of Isabelle Brocard, who debunks the fascinating literary monument that Karin Viard embodies with grace and conviction. It is also the talent of the actress, combined with that of Ana Girardot, who portrays her daughter with passion and elegance, which shines the most in this costume film where simplicity prevails over eccentricity. Thus the director favors sunny exterior scenes in order to recall Madame de Sévigné’s love for nature; to the splendor of the court, she preferred the sobriety of intimate salons.

If they celebrate the caustic humor and refined words of the beautiful marquise, in dialogues which often sound artificial, the filmmaker and her accomplice insist on showing her as an abusive, intriguing and manipulative mother. They also endeavor to dissect the toxic relationship between this monster of selfishness and his daughter, who emancipates herself thanks to the spirit of independence that her mother ironically instilled in her.

In doing so, Isabelle Brocard and Yves Thomas barely develop the characters evolving around the Sévigné mother and daughter, neglecting the union between Françoise and Grignan and evacuating all the political intrigues of the Grand Siècle. By focusing on illustrating the melancholy that the first experiences in the absence of the second, Madame de Sévigné distills boredom.


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Madame de Sévigné


Madame de Sévigné

Isabelle Brocard

Karin Viard, Ana Girardot, Cédric Kahn

1:32 a.m.


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