Her Name Is Sabine (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/06/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Superbly made, achingly personal and deeply moving portrait of director Sandrine Bonnaire's younger sister, a 38-year-old autistic woman.

What's it all about?
French actress Sandrine Bonnaire makes her directorial debut with Her Name Is Sabine, a sensitive portrait of her sister Sabine, a 38-year-old autistic woman who lives in a care home. Bonnaire intercuts footage of her sister in the present day with home movie footage of Sabine as a teenager, 25 years ago, and we learn that she was once a lively, talented and beautiful young woman, who taught herself to play the piano and loved to travel.

However, when Sabine's siblings (including Bonnaire) grew up and moved away, their mother found herself unable to cope with Sabine's increasingly agitated state and sent her into institutional care. Five years later, she was released, but her time in a psychiatric hospital seemed to have crushed her musical abilities and her love of life, while both her personality and her physicality suffered serious setbacks.

The Good
This is an incredibly personal film that's often so intimate that it's difficult to watch. The subtext is a strong sense of guilt on Bonnaire's part that perhaps if Sabine hadn't gone into care, she might have more of a trace of the woman she once was. At any rate, we're left with no doubt that when Bonnaire films the mother of another patient talking about how the guilt never goes away, it's clear that she is also speaking for Bonnaire.

The Great
The home movie footage adds an incredibly upsetting note, because it's impossible to watch the footage and not feel a deep sense of loss. And then, just when you think you couldn't feel any sadder, Bonnaire films Sabine watching the home movie footage herself – frankly, if you don't have tears streaming down your face at that point, you might want to check that you're still alive.

Worth seeing?
Her Name Is Sabine is a wonderfully directed, deeply personal and incredibly moving documentary that is well worth seeking out, although you might want to stock up on Kleenex. Highly recommended.

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Her Name Is Sabine (12A)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 08:57

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