top of page

A Division of Provenonce Inc. and NFT Oasis

Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard Shine in Michel Franco’s EVOCATIVE “Memory”

Behind The Scenes at the Venice Film Festival

September 8, 2023

By Keaton Shyler

Michel Franco's latest cinematic exploration, "Memory," delves into the intricate complexities of trauma and human connection, where Sylvia cannot forget and Saul cannot remember. The title itself encapsulates the essence of the film, where memories—both painfully vivid and hauntingly elusive—play a central role, compelling characters to confront their pasts, edging on impending violence. In the world of Franco, hope is a scarce commodity.

Jessica Chastain, Peter Sarsgaard and Director Michel Franco enjoy an 8 minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival.

Brought to life by the captivating performances of Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard, Franco’s latest film, won an 8 minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. I want to shy away from spoilers, just as when cooking a chocolate souffle, you couldn’t tap the side of an oven without causing the structure to fall. One spoiler too many would cause Franco’s careful construction to collapse before you’d see it. In fact, I would caution against reading other reviews before watching. Not for this one.

In a searing portrait, Chastain plays Sylvia, a social worker whose life is marked by its simplicity and structure, revolving around her daughter, her job, and her regular AA meetings. However, everything changes dramatically when Saul (played by Sarsgaard) will not leave her home after their high school reunion. Themes of abuse, denial, silence, and guilt are explored, adding depth to the film's emotional terrain.

Chastain’s embodiment of deep pain and anguish is breathtaking here. But it is Sarsgaard’s moment to shine, in a portrayal marked by poignant moment after poignant moment that confirms him as one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Franco's minimalist style, resonant with Dogma principles, immerses the audience in the characters' inner struggles and emotional turbulence. His directing here is spot on, building the perfect pressure cooker of human emotion. This is his third time working with cinematographer Yves Cape, whose unadorned, unblinking lens captures the bleak backdrop of Brooklyn, allowing our focus to turn to the actors. A formidable supporting cast, including Merritt Wever, Josh Charles, Jessica Harper, Elsie Fisher, and newcomer Brooke Timber, adds weight to the narrative, forming a robust ensemble.

Franco is a focused observer of what makes us human. As a Mexican director, he has commented that he feels we’re all North Americans and we should embrace our proximity and similarities. New York, afterall, he has noted, feels like his second home, only four hours away by flight from Mexico City. In the relationship between Mexico and the United States, who has the difficulty remembering, and who is unable to forget? Perhaps this film reminds us what is worth remembering in any relationship.

bottom of page