French Girl in Seattle reviews “Thérèse Desqueyroux” (Seattle International Film Festival – Part III)

How ironic. This week, I had to drive to “the city,” to watch a movie about a woman who led a boring [French] provincial life…
You may not realize this, but it takes at least 45 minutes to reach downtown Seattle from my neck of the [suburban] woods.
On Thursday evening, I programmed my car’s GPS so I would find the old-fashioned movie theater where the Seattle International Film Festival was showing Thérèse Desqueyroux.
When I arrived, I did not recognize the neighborhood; or the old-fashioned Harvard Exit theater where the show was playing. I can tell you no theaters in my neighborhood look this cool: Built in 1925 as a clubhouse, the Harvard Exit still boasts a cozy lobby, complete with a grand piano, a fireplace and a big chandelier. 

No giant parking lot? No neon lights? Are you sure this is a theatre?

But I am getting ahead of myself.
Even though I was wearing [proudly] my Festival Press pass, I stood in line with the rest of the small crowd. Nobody can say fame has gone to this French Girl’s head!
I am glad I did. I had an interesting conversation with some locals. It’s easy to do in the U.S. where people are friendly, and within minutes, smile; engage you; and tell you their life’ stories (whether you want to hear them or not…) 

It went something like this:
Stranger 1 to me: 
Cool Pass. (reading the pass:) French Girl in Seattle. You know, you do not have to line up with us. You can go straight in.
French Girl in Seattle (looking around admiringly:) 
This is a très cool neighborhood, and building. I don’t recognize it. Where are we exactly?
Stranger 1 (a little surprised,) to me:
This is Capitol Hill, of course. (Ed: a well-known, edgy Seattle neighborhood.) 
French Girl in Seattle (genuinely shocked:) 
Really? I would not have guessed. I don’t cross the bridge very often. I live on the Eastside (Ed: Seattle’s high tech and “posh” neighbor, across Lake Washington.) 
Stranger 1 (smiling sadly:)
Sorry. Really
Stranger 2 (jumping into the conversation:)
We call the Eastside “the Dark Side.” 
Ouch. But I remembered les Parisiens do the same thing when they describe the rest of France as “la Province…” 
I bid my new friends Au revoir and, passing the line (I am French, after all,) I went in and flashed my Press pass. (I do this all the time; Cannes; Sundance; the Academy Awards…) 

Shhhhh… The Show is about to start…


But I digress. I am here to tell you about the Claude Miller movie, Thérèse Desqueyroux.

By the way, that is pronounced day-ss-kay-roo

You’re welcome.

Thérèse Desqueyroux was the last movie of the prolific French director. He died in 2012 a few weeks before his actors walked the prestigious Cannes red carpet on the Festival’s closing night.

Thérèse Desqueyroux is a pretty faithful adaptation of a French literature classic, written by François Mauriac in 1927. The story takes place in the beautiful Landes region, outside of Bordeaux, an area well known for its vast pine forests.

Monsieur et Madame Desqueyroux…

The movie tells the story of a modern, free-spirited woman, unhappily married to a catholic landowner, heir to a large pine forest. He is a dull and serious man; attached to tradition and his bourgeois lifestyle, who never understands Thérèse or her aspirations.

Thérèse’s ennui, her dutiful life in a marriage of convenience, are masterfully captured by Miller who succeeds at depicting her claustrophobic existence in the dark, cold provincial family mansion. This is not a cheerful movie. 

Thérèse: Poster child for the bored, dissatisfied housewives…

No ladies, not all French provincial homes are bright and romantic
and decorated in the Shabby Chic style…

An emotional prisoner, Thérèse will be led to extreme measures to try and escape social pressures and a life of frustration and compromises. She will pay a high price, imposed by her family, before she can ultimately escape her dreary life in jazz age Paris.

Thérèse, scheming…

The movie is sombre and gloomy, like the Desqueyroux‘ mansion, but in the movie’s title role, Audrey Tautou, of Amélie fame, shines. Tautou has mostly stuck to comedic roles in recent years, and this is her chance to show some range as an actress. She says little, but her dark, soulful eyes (often filmed at close range by Claude Miller,) successfully express her inner torment. 

We feel for Thérèse, who yearns for another life, but she is a complex character, who does not always come across as likeable. There is no happy ending in this story, and the last shot is, at the very least, ambiguous.

Writing a review for Thérèse Desqueyroux is tricky. I know this one won’t be as much of a *sure thing* as the other two films I reviewed. So, I thought I would do the following. Then you can decide if Claude Miller‘s movie is for you.

Thérèse Desqueyroux: See it if…

  • You obsess over old country French estates. 
  • You love Audrey Tautou and want to see if she has the chops for more dramatic roles.
  • You have seen enough fast-paced, loud, action movies recently, merci beaucoup.

Thérèse Desqueyroux: Skip it if…

  • You have always hated the isolation of the countryside.
  • You think all French movies are either too chatty, or too slow.
  • You have been feeling low lately… 

C’est tout, les amis. A bientôt.

Thérèse Desqueyroux
Claude Miller, 2012
Limited national release date:
August 23, 2013

Movie trailer:


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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)


  • Great review; I may gave to pass on this one. I do adore Audrey Tautou; however I need some sunlight and brightness right now!

    2013 Designer Series
    Art by Karena

  • I have always admired Audrey Tautou’s acting capabilities. She does have a wide range and never disappoints. I particularly liked her in “a very long engagement”. Cannot wait to see the movie. Thank you “film critique Veronique”.

    • I am with you Nadege. Audrey Tautou is totally unique; her looks; her “gouaille,” and the way she acts. A Very Long Engagement is an amazing movie. Did you happen to see her in Priceless (Hors de Prix,) the cute romantic comedy with Gad Elmaleh? She was quite memorable in that one, also…

  • I loved her in the Coco Chanel movie..she must be wonderful in this..I would go to just look at her..and thank you ..I am French and have always pronounced it Deskeeroo:-)
    Truly.Oh lala…
    She is magnetic to me.

    • Well, dear Nana. I would have personally tempted to not pronounce the “s” in their last name… so… there is room for interpretation, definitely. See my comment to Nadege, above, for a couple of excellent movies featuring Mademoiselle Tautou. A bientôt.

  • I am loving these reviews-after I read here I flip over to nexflix and put the title on my list-often in the save section as the title is not yet available! Looking forward to more reviews-an EXCELLANT job as always!!!

    • Welcome back, g. So happy to hear from you again. I am glad you enjoy my modest movie reviews. I have one more coming up before the end of the festival. Ah, how I wish I’d had the time to see more of the 14 French movies in the selection. Next year, next year… Come back soon, d’accord?

  • I will absolutely be seeing this one!! It is fun talking to people in line, isn’t it? I’ve heard some crazy stories from total strangers!

    • I would have thought so too, but the “s” is pronounced in the movie, so I went for that version of the name.

      Interestingly, after doing some research online, it seems both pronunciations are acceptable. The Desqueyroux lived in the old Province of Gascony where pronunciation of some names may differ.

      I hope this helps.

  • You are just a fine critique, Véronique! I LOVE the reality that French movies, at least the ones I know and love from the past depict. The reality I mean, by showing the darker sides of life and how these lives don’t always have a happy ending. I also tend to enjoy the slower development of the story, as French movies tend to show in style! This is fun, to see how well YOU present the story line of a movie, since so many of us love the cinéma! And by the way, I prefer these old-fashion movie houses ANY DAY to the boxes we have strewn all over malls, with their loud and bright lights!


    • Merci beaucoup chère Anita! You will certainly enjoy Thérèse as it shows the darker sides of life in detail — even if it is sometimes difficult to understand how she could be so unhappy in a life of absolute leisure. Maybe what Thérèse really needed was a job, or at the very least, a project of her own (don’t we all?) 🙂

  • I think I will go Veronique, two out of three on the first list works pour moi 🙂 Haha! I enjoyed your ‘queue chat’, talking to random people can sometimes be so much fun, and then sometimes not so much 🙂

    • Two out of three ain’t bad, Grace 🙂 I am lucky most of my interactions with movie patrons have been pleasant so far– with the exception of that woman, sitting behind me, who got all miffed because I had left my camera on in the darkness to take that shot inside the movie theater 🙂 There is always a crabby one, right?

  • Sorry – I have been too long absent… I now reviewed your latest posts, all related to cinema. I saw this one about Thérèse. I much appreciated your very neutral way of giving your “critics”. I would do the same! 🙂

    • No apology needed my dear Peter. I know you have been quite the traveling man lately, and who could blame you? One needs to travel sometimes to find the sun (as I very well know…) Welcome back chez French Girl in Seattle. Loved your last piece about Guimard.

      I am glad you enjoy my movie reviews. I don’t believe in over-praising a movie, and I don’t believe in over-killing it either. After all, to each his own, and there is always something people will enjoy in any movie. Or maybe I have been lucky I have not yet seen a VERY BAD movie at the Festival! 🙂

  • Audrey Tautou, la seule actrice française actuelle que j’adore!Fraîche, unique , originale ,talentueuse et si jolie!
    Quant au film , il fait partie de ces 1% de films français qui sont tres bien, ces quelques perles rares qui nous font encore honneur. MAis hélas, claude Miller n’est plus là, ni Claude Chabrol, ni certains autres , et je ne vois pas la relève arriver..

    • Ah, tu vois. Je savais bien que tu n’étais pas allergique au cinéma français! C’est vrai qu’elle n’est pas mal, la petite Tautou. C’est effectivement un beau film, mais il n’est pas pour tout le monde, ce que j’ai essayé d’expliquer dans le texte.

      Ah, oui, une anecdote assez sympa: J’étais en train d’attendre devant un cinema du Festival avec quelques amis et élèves samedi soir, et nous parlions en français. Une dame devant nous, qui tenait un iPad, s’est retournée, et m’a dit: “Vous êtes French Girl in Seattle? J’étais justement en train de lire votre blog…” — Rires de mes étudiants qui m’ont bien vannée ensuite. Bref, on dirait que c’est le début de la célébrité ma chère Marie. Je me demande si je n’arriverai pas rue du Malonat en limousine finalement, en juillet prochain… 🙂


    • Prend la bien étanche , la limousine, parce que figure toi qu’il pleut encore à seaux!! Là , ça devient un peu inquietant, car des trombes d’eau en juin,ici, comme ça, jamais vu..
      C’est sympa de devenir célebre! enfin, je suppose… Merci pour l’adresse du casting, ma fille a déjà sauté dessus! :o)A defaut de devenir star moi-même..
      Allez, bisous pluvieux!

    • Mais qu’est-ce-que c’est que ces salades? De la pluie à Nice, en juin? Bon, il va falloir qu’Estrosi fasse quelque chose et pronto. Non mais.

      Célèbre, célèbre, n’exagérons rien! 🙂 Je garde la tête froide… tant que je n’aurai pas interviewé Bradley Cooper, c’est promis! Bonne chance à ta fille pour les auditions. Woody – qui n’a pas gardé la tête froide, lui – a des exigences de star, dis-moi!


  • It’s French and Audrey is in it. Enough reasons to see it Veronique!
    Those people in the queue sounded a bit “up themselves” to me. I recall Capitol Hill as being elegant, expensive and pretentious. I rest my case!

    • Bonjour Craig. You are right about Capitol Hill, at least about parts of it. There is also a very edgy vibe in some sections of the neighborhood. I had heard that story before. I guess Seattleites consider themselves “Blue Blood” while shiny Bellevue across the lake is more “nouveau riche…” — I can’t say that they are entirely wrong. 🙂 Fortunately, I lead a provincial life in the boonies (à la Thérèse D.) so I do not have to take sides. If given a choice, I, too, would pick Seattle. A city girl remains a city girl, even if some neighbors are snooty. 🙂

      Enjoy the movie!

  • I have to see this film!!!! Once again you have taken me back in time to my student days when I wrote a dissertation – an analysis of love and relationships in the works of Mauriac! Of course Thérèse Desqueroux featured quite heavily. I have shelves of French novels which I keep meaning to reread and I know that would be good for my French too.
    PS Thanks for your wonderful comment on my guest post over at Rosemary’s and you are absolutley correct – I do have a sweet tooth!

    • You and I were doing a lot of the same things at the same time, it sounds like, miss b. 🙂 I hardly ever read in French anymore, et c’est dommage. Methinks I will start doing this again soon…

  • Audrey has on her mean Coco Chanel face in this one…hmmm
    Trop foe pour moi me thinks though I did go and watch the trailer again
    I can see having to watch this on AirFrance while they feed you ravioli a from New Jersey.
    Sheer torture!

  • Audrey does serious extremely well – a very talented actress. And I love the French countryside and dark old houses, but currently I’m not in the mood for sombre. Bisous

  • the book was on my high school compulsory list, can’t wait to see
    just read somewhere that Karl Lagerfeld does not like Audrey… ! #@* !
    le grand bonjour de bruxelles

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