Virginie Efira plays the role of Margot – or is it Judith? – who leads two separate lives
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We all inhabit different versions of ourselves. There’s work-you, home-you, maybe parent-you, spouse-you, gym-you, and more. If you ever met one of your teachers outside of school as a child, you know the strange disconnect that comes with seeing two sides of the same character simultaneously.
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The character of Virginie Efira in Madeleine Collins is an extreme, perhaps even pathological example. Like Margot Soriano, she lives in Switzerland with her companion Abdel (Quim Guttirrez) and their granddaughter, Ninon. But when she travels, ostensibly for work, it is often with her husband (Bruno Salomone) in France. There, her name is Judith Fauvet and she has two other children, both boys.
Director and co-writer Antoine Barraud brings a Hitchcockian level of suspense to his French-language tale, starting with a scene in which something terrible but unseen happens to a woman who looks a lot like Margot (or Judith) in a department store. . We have to reconstruct the rest. How much does each family know about the other, if any? What is the role of his parents in all this?
And why is she leading this double life in the first place? Although we can sometimes fantasize about such an existence, Efira’s performance makes it clear that no matter what, it’s exhausting work.
The film (a Belgian/French/Swiss co-production; even the film leads multiple lives!) has excellent pacing, and you can find yourself watching Judith/Margot with a sort of fascination bordering on dread. She behaves with a professional liveliness that can suddenly become brittle. One day, she slips up, giving her name Margot to a flirtatious stranger who then shows up at a party Judith is attending. Getting pulled over for speeding leads to even bigger problems.
But neither Margot nor Judith seem malevolent in their duplicity, showing genuine love and affection for all the men and children in her life. Is she mentally ill? Well-intentioned but excessive? It is normal that in her professional life, she works as a translator, creating variations of words in several languages, all saying the same thing.
Madeleine Collins opens June 10 for a week at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto and Princess in Waterloo.
4 out of 5 stars