Hold Me Tight

Directed by: Mathieu Amalric
Distributed by: Kino Lorber

Written by Michael Clawson

In the dim, early morning hours, while her husband, son, and daughter are all still in bed, Clarisse (Vicky Krieps) quietly gets dressed, attends to a few things around the house, and then slips out the door off of her kitchen. As she takes to the road, beaming as she sings to the radio, her family awakes and is puzzled by her absence. At this stage of “Hold Me Tight,” a French drama from actor/director Mathieu Amalric, the movie looks as if it might be a spiritual cousin of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter” – the opening scenes swiftly paint Clarisse as a woman impulsively fleeing the confines of domesticity for a life of independence. But the movie, which is an adaptation of a play, goes on to reveal itself as something more structurally complex: a fractured, elliptically molded composite of reality and subjectivity.

Krieps is the glue that holds the film together as fluid editing takes us inside and outside of Clarisse’s head (distinguishing between the two zones, while also parsing the narrative’s scrambled chronology, keeps one’s mind busy at work). Distance from her husband and children, we find, is quite the opposite of what Clarisse desires, although she might have once indeed felt ambivalent about her family life – a welcome stroke of honesty in her characterization. Clarisse is someone for whom life has brought unbearable tragedy, and who finds solace in the escape into a fiction of her own making. As the main thrust of “Hold Me Tight” snaps into focus, the movie becomes a poignant immersion in a mind that’s busily and desperately fending off the awfulness of grief.

The whirl of a helicopter’s blade, the crunch of snow underfoot – hints that “Hold Me Tight” isn’t as straightforward as it initially appears come when such sounds, heart-wrenching ones for Clarisse, are heard out of sync with what’s on screen. The slipperiness of the movie’s shape would be gimmicky were it not for the grace with which Amalric sews together moments out of Clarisse’s actual daily life and her imagination. It’s well before the point in the movie where those two realms painfully clash that Krieps reconfirms her talents as one of the great actresses working today. It’s when she’s not crying, but rather smiling, that the depth of the emotion she imbues Clarisse with is sometimes most acute.

“Hold Me Tight” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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