Miami International Film Festival: Review of Michel Gondry's The Thorn in My Heart

Michel Gondry must have been on to us. He knew we'd expect something as imaginative as his last film, The Science of Sleep, or his popular Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So in The Thorn in the Heart (L'Épine Dans le Coeur), he presents an evenhanded documentary about his aunt Suzette, a retired teacher in rural France thought to be avant-garde by her students and the life of the party by her family.

Well, almost. Gondry had intended to document Suzette's life as a teacher, but a more complicated relationship emerged -- that between Suzette and her son, Gondry's cousin Jean-Yves. Juxtaposed between scenes in which Suzette is praised for her skill with schoolchildren are shots of a fragile Jean-Yves, a grown man still living under his mother's thumb and suffering nervous breakdowns after coming out as gay; his mother even hid his father's death for days. Suzette is blunt in her opinion of Jean-Yves, calling him weak and a thorn in her heart.

In one particularly uncomfortable scene, Suzette inadvertently traps

Jean-Yves in the bathroom by setting up a drying rack next to the door.

When he finds himself blocked, he cries a high-pitched "Mama!" Then

both she and Gondry taunt him.

Gondry is known for his imaginative visual style, but The Thorn in My Heart

is an exercise in restraint. Whereas his other work, which also

includes trippy music videos, revels in subconscious play, this film

proves that complicated undercurrents are also visible in the mundane.

March 7th at 6:45 p.m and March 9th at 5:45 p.m. Regal South Beach, 1100 Lincoln Road; 305-674-6766.

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