2023 | rated R | starring Sandra Huller | directed by Justine Triet | 2h 31m | Partially in French with English Subtitles |

I guess I didn’t expect Anatomy of a Fall to be as literal a title as it is. It’s not about a personal self-destruction or a fall from grace. It’s about a guy that literally falls off the roof.

The day after being interviewed by a local reporter, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Huller)’s son finds his father dead in the backyard, presumably from a fatal fall out of a top floor window. Investigators delve into the family, including interrogating the blind boy and ultimately accusing Sandra of murder. As the trial begins, family and professional secrets are revealed to the public and the truth of what happened gets murkier.

Anatomy of a Fall has a lot of delicious stuff going for it. A film worth prying into and dissecting the details of a mystery it keeps just out of our sight. It is a true-to-form courtroom drama, with the added fascinating layer of taking us into the inner workings of the French justice system, powdered wigs and all. Director Triet (whose previous work I’m going to seek out now) gives the film an authenticity, not quite glossy but not quiet gritty. Set in a lived-in home on a beautiful snowy French mountaintop, but not quite immersive enough as to get us into Sandra’s head – for good reason.

While Sandra is set up as the main character and our guide into an increasingly complicated legal trail, it eventually becomes clear that we may not know her at all. Everything we know about our lead is what we hear in open court for the first time along with everyone else. The film fleshes out Sandra’s husband the same way. I don’t think we even see the man’s face, but his character is drawn by the descriptions in court. How often did they fight? What did they fight about? Did they fight the day of his death? Why had he taken to recording these incidents? It all begins to twist our perspective from the woman we thought we were introduced to.

In this trial every potential witness and piece of evidence only leads to more questions. Take, Daniel, Sandra’s son, and possibly the only witness. As the detectives test out how loud the house music had to be to hear his parents fighting, Daniel changes his story. Everyone’s testimony is unreliable and the truth is illusive, but we have a dead man, a trial and a media asking for answers. Anatomy of a Fall sketches out the uncinematic reality where the case to prove in court and the search for truth are on two different paying fields.

Triet’s film is just warmer than an ice-cold procedural, but it definitely keeps us at a distance, making it’s mark in the courtroom drama genre by making the search for the truth as frustrating and unsure as a real life unsolved murder. The film lays right into the mystery template, leading us into a belief that in the final minutes the other shoe will drop and we’ll get that Primal Fear twist where the real killer is revealed and shocks us all. Your satisfaction level on Anatomy’s finale may vary, but I was ok with it.