More Than Ever (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): Her matter of life and death

“More Than Ever” is a little character drama which calmly observes its heroine’s quiet emotional struggles over her impending mortality. While it becomes occasionally melodramatic as you can expect from its main subject, the movie is still thoughtful and sensitive enough for the gravitas of her difficult situation, and it certainly earns its somber bittersweet ending with considerable emotional effects on us.  

In the beginning, we are introduced to Hélène (Vicky Krieps) and Matthieu (Gaspard Ulliel), a young couple who have been trying to deal with a gloomy fact which may end their close relationship sooner or later. Hélène happens to be recently diagnosed to have a rare incurable lung disease which will end her life within a short time unless she receives a lung transplant, and their close friends around them cannot help but feel awkward when they come to Hélène and Matthieu’s residence for one private evening meeting. Even though everyone tries to be cheerful on the surface, Hélène’s terminal illness soon becomes the elephant in the room, and that makes the mood among them quite uncomfortable to say the least.

As her medical condition gets worse day by day, Hélène feels more frustrated about how negatively her relationship with Matthieu has been affected by her medical condition. Because there is still a chance for her survival via lung transplant, Matthieu does not want to give up at all, but Hélène becomes skeptical because 1) she will have to wait for any suitable donor for an indefinite period and 2) she may have to struggle more even after she finally gets a lung transplant. Not so surprisingly, they eventually come to argue on whether they should give up or not, and they become estranged from each other despite their respective efforts for mending their relationship.

Meanwhile, Hélène gets interested in how the terminal like her deal with their gloomy circumstances. While doing some online search, she comes across an anonymous blogger who is quite frank about his serious illness with some morbid sense of self-deprecating humor, and she becomes more interested in this blogger as checking out a number of pictures and photographs posted on his blog site. Although their first online interaction is not exactly pleasant, she and this blogger soon come to interact more with each other during next several days, and she begins to consider going to where this blogger lives. Instead of being stuck in her residence for days without much hope for her survival, she really wants to do something different before it is too late for her, and Matthieu, who incidentally does not know anything about this blogger yet, does not stop her even though he has understandable reservation on her traveling alone by herself. 

Shortly after she arrives in some remote fjord area in Norway, Hélène meets the blogger, who turns out to be a lot different than she thought at first. He is a taciturn middle-aged man named Bent (Bjørn Floberg), and Hélène comes to stay in a cabin outside his little house. Although the mood between them is awkward to say the least, it does not take much time for them to interact more with each other, and Hélène subsequently finds herself unexpectedly becoming much more relaxed and peaceful than before, though her first days are rather rough for her due to the new environment surrounding her.

However, she still does not tell everything to Matthieu, and the situation between them become more complicated when she notifies an important decision of hers to him later in the story. When he eventually comes, it does not take much time for him to notice how friendly Hélène is to Bent, and that consequently leads to a sudden plot turn which causes more tension between her and Matthieu.

I will not go into details on how the screenplay by director Emily Atef and her co-writer Lars Hubrich pulls out a series of poignant moments during its last act, but I can tell you that I admire how thoughtfully the movie handles a key emotional scene between its two main characters with lots of care and intimacy. Although nothing much is said during this scene, that is more than enough for us to understand what is exchanged between them on the emotional level, and this effectively sets up the following finale. 

The movie depends a lot on the solid performances from its three main cast members. While Vicky Krieps, a wonderful Luxembourgish-German who had another productive time in last year thanks to this film and “Corsage” (2022), vividly illustrates her character’s dynamic emotional drama along the story, Gaspard UIliel, a notable French actor who unfortunately died too early in last year (This is his penultimate film, by the way), did a commendable job of complementing his co-star, and veteran Norwegian actor Bjørn Floberg holds his own small spot well around Krieps and Ulliel.

Overall, “More Than Ever” works thanks to its main cast members’ good acting as well as Atef’s competent direction. Probably because I am passing what will be probably the middle point of my inconsequential life, its thoughtful approach on matters of life and death comes close to me as I reflect more on its story and characters, and now my mind goes back to that memorable quote in Errol Morris’ great documentary film “Gates of Heaven” (1978): “Death is for the living and not for the dead so much.”

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