Under the Sand (French)

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We all know the human psyche has defense mechanisms set up to prevent overwhelming pain and grief. But just how much reality will those defenses ignore in the name of protecting us?

In “Under the Sand,” a literature professor named Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling) suffers a huge blow when her faithful and beloved husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) disappears while swimming at the beach. Or she SHOULD suffer a huge blow, that is: As it happens, she refuses to acknowledge the incident, continuing to speak of her husband in the present tense, buy him gifts, and tell friends that he travels on business a lot.

Her friends are sympathetic, but have no idea how to deal with her delusions. Her best friend Amanda (Alexandra Stewart) sets her up with friend Vincent (Jacques Nolot), with him Marie starts a relationship — one she considers adulterous, of course, and in one very creepy moment, husband Jean is seen lurking at the door as she and Vincent get it on.

It’s a melancholy film, to be sure, with few light moments. Some intrigue comes about when Marie’s mother-in-law, who is just as delusional, offers a theory of her own about what happened to Jean (no body was ever found). This gives the movie a spark, and the movie quickly douses it so it can go back to being moody and depressing. The ambiguous finale, while heartbreaking, is more vague than thought-provoking, as is the entire thing, really. The acting is tremendous, but so little insight is given into anything that it amounts to an emotional roller-coaster with no payoff.

B- (; R, some non-sexual nudity, some strong sexuality.)

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