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Laramie Movie Scope:
Anatomy of a Fall

Peeling back the layers of a marriage

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 6, 2023 – A dead husband, a wife accused of murder, and their partially blind son who finds himself in the middle of a big legal mess in France. This French whodunit is mostly in French with English subtitles, but there is also a lot of English spoken as well. These two languages are also a source of contention in the plot.

The accused, German novelist Sandra Voyter (played by German actress Sandra Hüller of “The Zone of Interest”) prefers to speak English, but is able to speak French when she needs to. Her French husband, Samuel Maleski (played by French actor Samuel Theis of “Softie”) definitely doesn't like speaking English, while their son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) seems equally comfortable with both French and English.

Daniel goes for a walk outside the family's Grenoble chalet with his dog, Snoop (yes, this could be a pun) and when he returns, he finds his father laying dead in front of the Chalet after an apparent fall. He calls for his mother, who rushes to his side and calls for an ambulance. The police arrive, and then the legal mess begins.

The police find evidence that Samuel was murdered, and Sandra is a suspect. She and Daniel are questioned by police. Investigators conduct a re-enactment of the crime on the assumption that Samuel was hit with an object (which is never found) and pushed off the balcony of the chalet.

The defense theory is that Samuel killed himself by jumping out of the attic window, above the balcony. Evidence comes to light that Samuel felt guilty about the accident that damaged the vision of his son. All this is speculation, of course. The prosecution claims their story is the only story consistent with the evidence, but the defense, led by lawyer Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud) shows how the evidence can also be interpreted to support the suicide story.

The prosecutor (played by Antoine Reinartz) is quick-witted and eloquent, coming up with a number of imaginative speculations about Sandra's motives for killing her husband. He also catches Sandra telling several lies. The best evidence he has for a motive is the violent argument Sandra and Samuel had the day before Samuel's death (part of the argument had to do with whether the main language in the house should be French or English). The argument was secretly recorded by Samuel himself, and later discovered on a flash drive by investigators.

The prosecutor tells the court that there was another, similar argument on the day Samuel died, that led to the murder. Renzi points out that this is sheer speculation. In fact, there is a lot of naked speculation in this trial. It seems like the prosecution and defense are free to make up their own stories about what happened, and the jury is free to pick the story they like best. Speculation seems to count equally with facts at the trial.

As all the family's dirty laundry (including Samuel's anger over his wife's infidelity) is aired at the trial, Daniel is present, at his own insistence. He hears it all, and is deeply affected by it. He is also a key witness at the trial, and he makes his own speculations about his father's death.

In the end, it seems like the witnesses, the experts, the prosecution and defense all freely speculate and tell stories at trial. The side telling the most convincing stories is the one that wins the case. Although the French criminal justice system is different than the American system, some say the best story wins in either system. As for me, I could not tell which side was right, and that seems to be one the main goals of this movie.

The acting in this movie is superb. Director Justine Triet (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur Harari) has crafted a very clever story, with lots of twists and surprising turns. This is a complex and fascinating character study, as well as a compelling whodunit. This movie rates an A.

Trivia: the title of this film seems to be a variation on the title of the 1959 classic film, “Anatomy of a Murder,” starring James Stewart and George C. Scott.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]