More Than Ever: Review
More Than Ever: Review. By By Joe Muldoon.
Since the widespread critical acclaim of her most notable roles in 2017’s Phantom Thread and 2021’s Bergman Island, Vicky Krieps’ career has rapidly attracted a fanbase, with great gusto. Following on from her impressive leading performance in Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage, her most recent film feature is in Emily Atef’s More Than Ever, in which she plays Hélène, a woman who is terminally ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Krieps’ now-trademark stoicism drives her performance home. Starring alongside her is the sadly late Gaspard Ulliel, playing her longtime partner, Matthieu.
Hélène is informed by her doctor that there are few treatments viable, but that she has the option to undergo a lung transplant with a 50% success rate. Matthieu feels cautiously optimistic, urging her to undergo the operation, but Hélène is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of potentially spending the majority of the rest of her life in hospital care, especially after observing patients in hospital beds.
Growing tired of the way in which the terminally ill are treated, she finds solace in a blog written by a chronically ill man under the moniker ‘Mister’. Yearning for a feeling of freedom and solitude, and much to Matthieu’s discomfort, she travels to Norway to meet ‘Mister’ (or Bent, as we later find to be his name, played by Bjørn Floberg).
Despite her surprise at him being nothing like she expected, Hélène finds solace in her new companion, a mutual understanding and experience shared between them. The remoteness of Bent’s Norwegian home provides Hélène with the escape she seeks.
More Than Ever is a poignant silent meditation on sickness and death. Those surrounding Hélène attempt to awkwardly dance around the topic, unsure of how to treat their friend. She feels frustrated about the immediate shift in treatment, whilst they feel uneasy about the prospect of prematurely losing their friend. Atef’s piece works best when it plays to its strength in its silence; Hélène finds peace with her fate, opting to take agency over the inevitable, whilst Matthieu quietly comes to accept his partner’s decision.
Breaking with the standard fare of ending the picture on a tear-jerking note with Hélène’s inevitable death and funeral, Atef instead opts to end Hélène and Matthieu’s time together with a passionate sex sequence, a unique spin on la petite mort.
Rather than with a Hollywood feelgood glimmer of optimism, the decision to close with a measure of ecstasy feels far more fitting, a way to allow Hélène the dignified control over her fate she so desires.
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