Murder in the Alps – ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ grips with Triet & Hüller’s brilliance – Review

Each spring in the Mediterranean seaside town of Cannes, France, filmmakers from all over the world gather to explore and discover new films at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. When the film festival ends, they award the top film with a prize called the Palme d’Or. Starting in 2019 with the film Parasite, NEON has managed to win this coveted prize every year since. The latest film to continue the studio’s incredible hot streak is the French language film Anatomy Of A Fall, now in theaters stateside. 

While this dialogue-heavy foreign film has a decent amount of spoken French, it also has maybe 30-40% spoken English, making it more accessible to audiences in the United States. This film is primarily a courtroom drama and, and has a screenplay that has to be one of the longest of the year, with almost a two-and-a-half-hour film runtime. With so much back-and-forth conversation, you might wonder if the film gets bogged down a bit – but don’t worry, these fears are unfounded. Anatomy of a Fall is in top contention for one of the most riveting films of the year. 

Anatomy Of A Fall made a nervous wreck out of me. The anxiety and tension that this film creates, while effectively breaking up the courtroom scenes and progressively revealing more information to the audience, made this one of the most outstanding films I’ve seen all year. Don’t take my word for it, though. Audiences of all kinds will Fall for this film, just as I did if you book yourself a ticket for this Anatomy lesson.

The story of Anatomy of a Fall

There are spoilers ahead for Anatomy of a Fall.

As Anatomy of a Fall opens, we see a wooden staircase inside a home. We hear two women speaking; one asks the other, “What do you want to know?“. We watch as a tennis ball bounces down the steps, and a black and white sheepdog runs down to fetch it as one of the women continues to interview Sandra (Sandra Hüller) off camera.

The scene cuts, and we’re taken upstairs and introduced to Sandra’s son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner); he’s trying to get the dog we just met, Snoop, into a small bathtub. We head back downstairs and watch as the interview continues. Sandra is a writer and talks about her inspiration for some of her stories and books. As we cut back upstairs, Daniel sniffs Snoop before rubbing him with a towel to dry him off when suddenly we hear an instrumental version of the 50 Cent song P.I.M.P. by the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band playing in the background. 

Milo Machado-Graner as Daniel Maleski in Anatomy of a Fall. Image courtesy of NEON.
Milo Machado Graner as Daniel Maleski in Anatomy of a Fall. Image courtesy of NEON.


The two women continue to converse downstairs. The music upstairs intensifies to the point that the volume level makes it difficult for us to hear what they’re saying and for them to keep speaking, so they agree to postpone their interview for the time being. Daniel takes Snoop outside for a walk, and we’re made privy to the beautiful, rustic, snow-covered cabin that the family occupies set high up in the mountains. As Daniel walks the dog, we notice he wears specially designed black sunglasses. After we see him throwing sticks straight ahead without looking at how he holds Snoop’s leash, we begin to clue in that Daniel is blind.

A deadly discovery in Anatomy of a Fall

Daniel returns home and we hear the same 50 Cent cover blasting when suddenly, upon approaching the corner to the front of their cabin, Snoop pulls away and runs ahead. As the camera follows and pans down, we see a dark-haired man lying face up on the ground, his head surrounded in blood. The red stains on the white snow are unseen by Daniel, who keeps walking ahead until his boot bumps into the man’s body. Daniel bends down and lays his hands on the man’s dark blue sweater. He yells, “Mama!” repeatedly. 

The dog begins barking, and the boy starts sobbing as his mother, Sandra, finally emerges from a side balcony door and runs down to see what is happening. We see shots of the home’s interior as the steel drums ring in our ears. Finally, we see the upstairs room with two large triangle windows; the right one is open wide. Then we see the famous aerial shot on Anatomy of a Fall’s poster.

Medics arrive, and police comb over the scene to determine what happened. The examination of the body reveals a large wound to the head, leaving the cause of death inconclusive and the authorities indict Sandra for her husband’s murder. A family lawyer friend is contacted for help, and Maître Renzi (Swann Arlaud) enters the picture to give Sandra legal counsel with the ongoing investigation. 

A one-year time jump toward the start of the second act

Near the beginning of the second act, we skip a year to the actual courtroom proceedings, and the rest of the film covers these events. But as the story progresses, the proceedings commence, and the trial ramps up, this riveting script sucks you in and builds momentum right up to a finale that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.

Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall. Image courtesy of Neon.
Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall. Image courtesy of Neon.

Justine Triet and Sandra Huller are the pillars holding up the film

To start with the props for this film, I have to mention two women, the writer and director Justine Triet and the actress who plays the main protagonist, Sandra Hüller. First, the film’s direction is highly impressive. Although Triet has written and directed a few other projects that I’m not familiar with, the way this film is shot, paced, and constructed is truly incredible.

I will say that although the movie is cinematic and there is some nice camera work on display, some of the camera angles used inside the courtroom threw me off. A few were even a bit blurry at times. In one particular shot, I guessed they were trying to give the impression that we were watching a live news coverage piece of the trial by partially obstructing our view with another person, as if we were sitting in the audience. Still, I wasn’t exactly sure why Triet used that strategy for that particular part of Anatomy of a Fall.

 The Anatomy of a Fall screenplay is a bit better than the direction, and that’s only because there is so much dialogue and back-and-forth courtroom drama that it boggled the mind. Even though it’s not Aaron Sorkin-level material, it might be considered Sorkin light. Still, the sheer volume of dialogue and how Triet manages it without bloating the film and slowing it down was truly staggering.

Sandra Hüller’s performance is outstanding

 The second pillar holding up Anatomy of a Fall was Sandra Hüller. Her performance was outstanding, even with it being a bit subdued for some portions of the film, but it was such a strong show that I felt I was immediately forced to put her among my favorites of the year. The rest of the cast, especially the young actor Milo Machado Graner, who plays the blind son, Daniel, pulled their weight incredibly well. 

While a two and a two-and-a-half-hour courtroom drama might not sound all that thrilling, I kid you not when I say that this film sweeps you up, blows you away, and by the finale, you’ll likely be as captivated as you will at any other movie you’re likely to see this year.

Final thoughts about Anatomy of a Fall

 If you’re a big fan of cinema, and the fact you’ve read this far in some random dude’s movie review about a foreign film tells me you are, this is a movie from 2023 you don’t want to miss. Dissecting this Anatomy not only instructed me about a Fall, but also about why international cinema is quickly becoming one of the things I love the most about movies.

Anatomy of a Fall is now playing in theaters

Anatomy of a Fall is now playing in theaters nationwide. Visit the official NEON website for the movie to learn more information about how to buy tickets. 

After the film has finished in theaters, it will be on Hulu along with the rest of the NEON films.

Have you watched the movie yet? What did you think? Did you find the courtroom drama compelling? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted. 

Looking for more awards contenders? Visit all of our awards coverage, including reviews for films likely to be in serious contention at the Academy Awards.

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