Mia (Virginie Efira) works daily as a Russian translator for the radio. One evening, Mia and her partner, Vincent (Grégorie Colin), spend the evening at a fine dining restaurant after work. However, when Vincent is called to attend urgent surgery for a patient, Mia is left to spend the night as she pleases. She decides to go home on her motorbike. Sadly, it begins to rain, and Mia decides to pop into another restaurant until the storm calms down. Mia manages to get a table to herself, orders a glass of wine and gets some work done while staying safe and dry, but it’s not long until something horrific and tragic occurs. The restaurant is unexpectedly attacked by terrorists leaving many dead. In the aftermath, we learn that Mia somehow managed to survive.
Fast forwarding to today, it’s been three months since Mia survived the horrifying disaster. It’s evident that Mia is hugely traumatised, but critical moments surrounding the attack (including how she escaped) have been erased from her memory. Mia also has an inflammatory injury and may require plastic surgery in six-seven months. The injury reminds Mia each day of the attack, and she is keen to have the wound corrected. Mia is surprised when she finds out that the restaurant where the attack occurred has reopened, and the survivors from that tragic evening often gather as a form of healing to try and help those trying to move forward. Mia starts attending meetings, hoping to give herself closure and peace. In an attempt to piece together the puzzle of the night, she retraces her movements and steps on the night.
Paris Memories is best described as a touching and gripping drama with thriller aspects. As you may expect, watching Mia during a terrorist attack is intensely gripping, dramatic and tense. The same could be said as she tries to move forward after surviving the horrific night. The thriller ingredient comes as we see Mia trying to understand how she managed to stay alive during the attack and the strangers she encountered. Mia also gets the opportunity to help others like her who are going through similar challenges and are seeking closure and peace.
Pacing-wise, I would say this film is a slow burn. I was highly invested in Mia’s life and her attempts to overcome her trauma and seek out the truth. A lot is going on here, and it’s easy to get hooked on the film’s story, whether it’s because of the incredible level of drama or the curious mysteries presented. One example is when Mia is accused of being a coward and surviving by hiding inside a toilet during the shootout, resulting in the death of others. Mia is confident she should have never done such a thing now, but given the situation she encountered, is it possible? It’s a driving force that pushes Mia and the audience more eagerly to find and seek out the answers.
The leading performance from actress Virginie Efira is excellent. I admire her dramatic work here, and she successfully delivers a convincing character who is dealing with hardships of trauma while simultaneously trying to retrace all her steps over the events of one night. Camera work and the filming style are also great, creating a touching atmosphere in the surrounding city thanks to Director Alice Winocour. As for any negative with the film, my biggest disappointment relates to some subplots overstaying their welcome far longer than I felt was needed. Much time is spent with other characters, which is challenging and makes the film feel longer than it is. However, the ending is highly satisfying and brings a good and valuable conclusion.
Overall, delivering a gripping combination of heavy drama and a few solid mysteries, Paris Memories is highly touching, heartfelt and unforgettable. The leading performance from actress Virginie Efira here also feels genuine. The story alone will have audiences deeply invested, whether just for the drama, the thrills, or perhaps, like me, you’ll quickly get drawn into both! The film’s journey is valuable and heartfelt even when certain subplots overstay their welcome or specific character choices may seem slightly questionable. Paris Memories (2022) is available at Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2023. For more information, check out the link here: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/