Under the Sand

(Sous le Sable)


The loss of a beloved spouse is one of the most devastating things that can happen. For Marie Drillon, (Charlotte Rampling, Signs & Wonders, Aberdeen), she chooses to deal with it by ignoring it. Under the Sand is an exploration of loss, and how it affects Marie. Nothing much really happens in this movie, but it does give Rampling a great role. Her touching, understated performance anchors the film and proves why she is one of the most dependable actresses around today. Even when she is smiling her, her eyes convey a look of intense sadness. Too bad nobody in America knows who she is.

Marie and her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer, Mon Pere, Night Taxi) are vacationing at their beachhouse. Marie intends to go swimming with Jean, but loses track of time. When she realizes how much time has passed, she also realizes that Jean is missing. All searches for his body are fruitless, and the only conclusion is that he drowned. Marie returns home, but carries on as if Jean is still alive. When she talks to her friends, she speaks about Jean in the present tense. Her friends broach the subject gingerly, and Marie usually brushes them off. She refuses to believe that he is dead.

Marie even talks to Jean, and imagines him there. This is not a ghost story, and director Francois Ozon (Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Criminal Lovers) never even tries to turn it into one. Jean appears as a figment of Marie's imagination as a way for Marie to prolong her illusion. As long as she can still see Jean, he is still alive to her. Her love for him was so great that she is at a loss as to what to do. Her friends don't know what to do. They care for Marie and want her to grieve, but also want her to move on with her life.

Ozon wrote the story along with Emmanuelle Bernheim (Sans Mentir), Marcia Romano (Les Vacances), and Marina de Van (Alias). They concentrate more on Marie than the story itself, which moves slowly. They want to show how this affects Marie over time. When she begins dating again, she puts herself into a strange paradox. Jean is there asking her about the dates and encouraging her, and she is becoming intimate. It's almost as if she wants to move on, but is afraid to let go of the past. There is little else to watch in Under the Sand except for Rampling, and it's a good thing that she can hold the movie by herself.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some sexuality, would be an R.

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