France | 2019 | Drama | 107 min | In French with English subtitles
Directed by: Jeanne Herry
Written by: Jeanne Herry
Cinematography: Sofian El Fani
Film Editing: Francis Vesin
Original Score: Pascal Sangla
Produced by: Vincent Mazel (Chi-Fou-Mi Productions), Alain Attal (Trésor Films), France 3 Cinema, StudioCanal
Cast: Sandrine Kiberlain (Karine), Gilles Lellouche (Jean), Élodie Bouchez (Alice), Olivia Côte (Lydie), Miou Miou (Irène), Stéfi Celma
They say it takes a village to raise a child. And Jeanne Herry’s sensitive second feature, In Safe Hands, illustrates how that proverb is all the more incisive when a newborn is separated from his mother at birth. A glimpse into the intricate anonymous-mother adoption system in France, the ensemble film follows two parallel story lines — that of little Théo, from his birth to finding a home three months later; and the agonizing process of one very determined prospective mother (magnificently portrayed by Elodie Bouchez). In between, the infant moves from hand to hand, through the astonishingly fine-tuned process of bonding, nurturing, communicating and adoptive match-making. The film is so truthful and unfussy, the score so unobtrusive, it almost feels like a documentary at times. Herry directs with such a light hand, you barely feel her presence, yet she has utter control of every detail. And each and every member of the excellent all-star cast gives a beautifully understated, nuanced performance — babies included — in this delicate, heartfelt study of one very real, very human “village”.
Literally born into show business herself, writer/director Jeanne Herry is the daughter of singer Julien Clerc and iconic French actress Miou-Miou, who plays a pivotal role in In Safe Hands. Herry began her career as an actress, performing in such films as Louis Malle’s May Fools and Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle (COLCOA 2006). She made her directorial debut with the dark comedy Number One Fan (COLCOA 2015, Critics Special Mention), which was nominated for two César Awards. She directed two episodes of Call My Agent! (season 2) for France 2 (COLCOA 2016, Best Series Award). In Safe Hands, her second feature as writer-director, was nominated for an impressive seven César Awards — for Best Actress (Sandrine Kimberlain and Elodie Bouchez), Actor (Gilles Lellouche), Musical Score, Original Screenplay, Director and Best Film.