Marie and Jean Drillon (Charlotte Rampling, Bruno Cremer) take their crumbling marriage on vacation to a country retreat, with baggage that includes subtle evidence of a quietly large crisis about to surface: Madame holding on, Monseuir slowly making for the door. For Marie, a relaxing day at the beach ends in tragedy when her husband fails to return from a swim and moves out of reach - forever? One fruitless search later and Marie returns home, unwilling to accept - privately or publicly - that her husband is almost certainly dead.
The opening minutes of "Sous le sable" ("Under The Sand") seemed tailor-made for territory inhabited by "The Vanishing":another my-partner-is-missing mystery show, full of plot twists, red herrings and a nail-biting finale. Thanks to François Ozon and co-writer Emmanuelle Bernheim (ref Rampling's character), what we actually get is a brilliant study of a woman who refuses to come to terms with her loss and, therefore, is unable to grieve.
The introduction of a new lover for Marie (Jaques Nolot) ups the emotional ante even further, as does the painful encounter between Jean's mother and her daughter-in-law ("You shouldn't be in a rest home. You should be in an asylum"), but this is emphatically Rampling's film; from start to finish, her performance and astonishing screen presence haunt practically every damn frame of this film - award-worthy doesn't even adequately convey just what she's accomplished here.In fact, her disqueting portrayal of mental disintigration is every bit as strong as Beatrice Dalle's stunning turn in "Betty Blue".
Praise too, for François Ozon who, at the tender directorial age of 32, has delivered a film many of his peers would be proud of.