Mathieu Amalric has inarguably built up a CV of highly visible appearances over the past two decades, so much so that he’s comparable to fellow countrymen like Juliette Binoche or Vincent Cassel, actors who have the impossible — if somewhat questionable — capacity to star in films by, say, Peter Hedges and Hou Hsiao-hsien in the same year. One would hope that the twitchiness that seems to govern not just Amalric’s physical presence in films from Arnaud Desplechin or Steven Spielberg, but his pinballing career in sum, would carry itself over to his fitful habit as a director. Unfortunately, Hold Me Tight belongs to a burgeoning (metastasizing?) subgenre of “adult” dramas by famous actors that can only be paradoxically identified by their overwhelming anonymity, their clichéd safeness disguised as hardened, weary cinema.
Beginning with an intriguing lack of explanation, Camille (Vicky Krieps), wife and mother of two, absconds from her home under the hush of nightfall; the specifics of this trip aren’t explicitly confirmed, but it becomes apparent that this is both an instance of abandonment and an attempt at shaking loose the stultifying patterns of domesticity. Still, there’s a family left behind, husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter), and daughter and son, whose frenzied rationalizations and subsequent realizations of their disappeared mother Amalric seems to take particular pleasure in surveying. Camille throws herself into increasingly embarrassing and even self-destructive situations as her family tries its best to soldier on, exhibiting the irritating frayed nerves of any number of cheap Cassevetes knockoffs.
Amalric handles Hold Me Tight with a grab bag of festival-entry tricks: flashbacks and dual storylines, frenetic handheld, and patient long shots that unashamedly swing for beauty; and performances that draw attention to themselves perhaps a little too much. The visual inconsistency is a striking, almost protean development in a film that otherwise adheres to convention, and it practically encourages flights of imagination of what this’d look like were it relegated only to Camille’s perspective, the jostling styles nicely mirroring her inscrutable and volatile emotional state. But there’s that pesky need to contextualize, to make digestible, and thus, Hold Me Tight is about as worthwhile as Xavier Beauvois’ Drift Away or Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, where a fractured family is introduced and then merely gawked at.