Sandrine Bonnaire, director of Her Name is Sabine , loves her sister. Bonnaire is a veteran of over 30 films as an actress and knows how to work with a camera well enough to have won the CÚsar, the highest film award for French language films.
Her Name is Sabine is simply beautiful, sensitive and full of contrasting images. We first see a young woman whose side-on gaze is quite still but quizzical and happy. The music is elegiac. Something is lost. Sandrine's voice-over says her sister is "38. As a child she was different and needed special care." Sabine is autistic.
The second image is of a bloated figure shambling away from the camera on a dark street. We then see a close-up of her face now: head lolling, pupils upward, mouth sagging open. These backward and forward time shifts are used with subtlety throughout the film. This is not the Dustin Hoffman over-stimulation of dynamism versus swaying disarray. Nor is it the ironic stupidity of Lars von Trier's The Idiots . This film is about a real person.
We see the young Sabine dancing, swimming and playing piano with an independence and inner satisfaction. We see the older woman help feed animals in a group of people with learning difficulties. We see her play in the public swimming pool with a carer and play piano hunched over in a sleepy way.
Although the film ends with questions like, "Will she ever live without medication? One day, will I be able to take another trip with my little sister?" there is a sense of hope about the obvious improvement in Sabine's condition through the latter part of the film.
When Sandrine asks her sister, "What does love mean to you?" The reply is, "It makes me feel good." In its poetic juxtaposition of joys past and the overcoming of present adversities, Sandrine Bonnaire has made a lovely film.