Paris Memories

Reviewed by Roger Gook

Sunday's film at the Keswick Film Club was another brilliant film and very highly rated by the audience – and quite rightly so. We are sadly all too familiar with images and stories of bombings, shootings and terrorist attacks around the world. We learn about the social and political reasons for these atrocities and hear about terrible loss of life and injuries. But what we hear less of is the effect these have on survivors – the guilt, the loss of memory and the shattered lives and bodies. Paris Memories tells the story of one such person.

The brother of the director, Alice Winocour, was caught up in the Paris Bataclan attacks in 2015, and his memories inform her fictional telling of one person's life after such an attack. The title refers to the loss of memory of that evening of one woman, Mia, and her struggle to deal with this. She is desperate to know what actually happened and the part she played, so that she can make sense of her subsequent feelings. She has a concern that she acted selfishly and needs to somehow find the truth. The film follows her search for an unknown man who comforted her in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and, for her, holds the key to understanding what happened.

The French title is Revoir Paris – To See Paris Again – and this more accurately describes the story. Although the memories are important, Mia's future life has to be reconsidered and rebuilt. Virginie Efira, playing Mia, gives a remarkable performance, showing the waves of emotional confusion as she tries to piece her new life together. She finds her old relationships are difficult because of the gulf in understanding of what happened, and she is only able to get close to those who shared the ordeal. Being the survivor of an atrocity changes the individuals from themselves and their past lives, and the repercussions on bodies and relationships are difficult for us to comprehend. This is perhaps the true message of the film – our need to understand that people's lives change and how we should not try to fit them back into our expectations.