Review: Anatomy of a Fall | TIFF 2023

Score:  A-

Director:  Justine Trier

Cast:  Sandra Hüller, Samuel Theis, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner

Running Time:  150 Minutes

Rated:  R

“…I think he fell.”

Grounded by a brilliant performance from star Sandra Hüller, Justine Trier’s Anatomy of a Fall is an undeniable masterclass in suspense. Utilizing the complexity of human nature and emotion, Trier beautifully intertwines her characters, crafting a classic whodunit that will have you guessing until the end.

Remotely set amidst the snow-covered French Alps, Sandra, a German writer, is in the middle of a whimsical, almost flirty conversation with another female when an instrumental version of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” begins to blare from an upstairs speaker, most certainly put on a loop by her husband, Samuel. Unable to continue the exchange, the dialogue is abruptly cut short. A few hours later, Samuel lies in the snow, blood surrounding his body—the only possible witness is the couple’s 11-year-old vision-impaired son.

While the film begins as an investigative thriller, content with telling of the probe and court case that follows Sandra’s eventual arrest, it quietly repositions itself as a deep, gruesome character study set to analyze the couple’s conflicted, near-toxic relationship. The maneuver, done with such meticulous eloquence, almost goes unnoticed, showcasing the easiness we feel in dissecting the unknowns surrounding someone’s life. The film allows, almost encourages, our imagination to run wild as we feverishly attempt to make the pieces fit and build an understanding that, to us, makes sense.

A self-examination of our own human nature, the film is intense and dramatic, bringing forth an intoxicating element that, much like real-life court cases, dares you to look away. Additionally, each of these characters, educated and well-spoken, hold their own against the other. As a result, both the film and its players feel elevated. The quick exchanges lead us down an unknown path where we sit, unsure of where the story is headed and what actually happened on the third floor of that secluded home on that fateful late afternoon.

Crafting a narrative that is equally obsessive and thrilling, Trier, who co-wrote the film’s script with Arthur Harari, works to give each of her characters a strong, consistent pulse. Even Milo Machado Graner, who plays the couple’s eleven-year-old son, Daniel, shows vigor and composure as the courtroom begins to attack his parents’ relationship, diving headfirst into their troubles and the tumultuous fight they had the night before Samuel’s death. And though the judge excuses Daniel during certain, highly combative moments in the trial, this strength prevents the film from falling off—a considerable feat given the extended runtime.

But even amidst the extra minutes, Anatomy of a Fall always feels to own its purpose. There are no filler scenes, no wasted moments. Trier’s intent and objective remain clear from the onset. Her actions are always deliberate, and when the final montage begins to take shape and the puzzle pieces shift positions to formulate a clear, concise picture, you can’t help but admire both the journey and the outcome. And though, as the screen fades to black, you might find yourself bewildered by the story’s conclusion, you’ll eventually realize it was, in fact, the outcome that was necessary.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.