The Midwife is a relationship-focused movie centered specifically around the relationship of protagonist Claire and antagonist Beatrice, played by two great Catherine’s of French cinema, Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve. This isn’t high octane stakes or drenched with tension. But you can expect a character exposé on two women at intersecting crossroads in their lives. It’s a ‘real story’ with human stakes and drama.
Claire is a midwife, and a damn good one. She’s a consummate professional and a little bit of a content loner outside of it. Middle-aged, sensible, and a little uptight, she begins the movie a little one-dimensional as a character. Her life is unsurprisingly her work, as the title begets. Early in the film she delivers a handful of babies in a variety of circumstances, each birth entirely real. Catherine Frot delivered five babies during filming.
The tension in the film begins once Claire runs into her father’s former mistress, Beatrice. Beatrice is everything Claire is not. Vainglorious, conceited, egocentric; they are polar opposites. Likewise she is initially a fairly one-dimensional character. By the end of the film the journey the two take together fleshes out full characters with the concessions and imperfections that afflict us all.
Beatrice is back in Claire’s life for one reason only. Under the pretense of contrition she wants to apologise to Claire for the hardship she wrought upon her in life. In reality she is looking for support and hospice after developing a severe brain tumour. Claire wants nothing to do with her and the reason is fleshed out quickly. Her father shot himself through the heart after Beatrice ended their affair, a fact Beatrice claims to be in total ignorance of. Claire attempts to be rid of her, however Beatrice is an expert manipulator and leverages her way continually into Claire’s good graces by pushing on her compassionate nature.
All this doesn’t sound particularly exciting and to be honest it will never compete for the attention of a majority of audiences. This isn’t a slight; attention spans are shorter and these kinds of films have a dwindling audience. Nevertheless you will get as much out of this film as you invest in it. The conversations and journey these two go through are illuminating to the human condition. It’s typical that you need to search further from English speaking films to find these kind of movies and this one certainly lives up to some of the foreign film stereotypes.
This is an engaging tale on two women who both aren’t quite what they appear to be. Some of the motivations are questionable but ultimately they come to rely on each other and help each other come to new insights and epiphanies. It’s a worthwhile journey for those with the patience.
The Midwife is in cinemas from 26th October through Palace Films.