Recent Golden Globe winner (and Oscar hopeful) Isabelle Huppert has enjoyed a remarkable year, cementing her status as one of the most magnetic, subtle and simply irresistible actresses on the planet. In her latest endeavour, Barrage, directed by Laura Schroeder in her sophomore feature film, the French superstar takes something of a backseat, instead allowing her daughter Lolilta Chammah to truly flourish, something she takes in her stride. It must run in the family.

To describe Chammah as a newcomer would be doing her a disservice, as she’s an actress who has been appearing on screen for almost thirty years – but rarely has she been gifted such a nuanced part to truly show off her credentials. She plays Catherine, determined to reconnect with her 10-year-old daughter Alba (Themis Pauwels) who has been raised by her grandmother Elisabeth (Huppert). Though somewhat ambiguous, we gather that Catherine had not felt fit to raise her daughter due to troubles with narcotics, but now, with her life back on track, and a loyal dog to keep her company, she feels it’s the right time to become the mother she had always intended to be – but knows she’ll have to convince her own mother to allow her access. Granted a trip to the park, it soon turns into a mini vacation, as they set off to the remote holiday home that belongs to the family.

BarrageThere’s a tangible suspense that lingers over this title, as we’re dealing with a volatile protagonist, prone to mood swings. On medication to clear her head of ‘dark thoughts’, in a brief moment of elation she decides to flush them down the toilet, leaving the viewer in anticipation of the inevitable crash. While we’re on edge, that doesn’t mean we can’t form a bond between ourselves and the character, with a fragility that is endearing, in a role seldom seen outside of Europe, for women at least. Similarly to what we saw in Two Days, One Night, we’re dealing with a nuanced, vulnerable protagonist, mentally unstable and on the verge of a breakdown, and yet she is never once painted out as a victim. It helps that there’s a sense of mystery attached too, as the viewer is fed brief snippets of information as we progress, as her background remains elusive – though such is the accomplished turn by Chammah, we don’t need much context, we can gather everything we need to know from merely spending time in her company.

This simplistic narrative is one deftly executed by Schroeder, and features three impressive lead performances, across three generations. On a more negative note, the film is persistently cheapened by the mawkish indie soundtrack that dictates the tone in a way that is simply not representative of the narrative playing out. But hey, if that’s the paramount criticism of this piece, then it’s clearly still a film worth indulging in.