Reviewed by Ken Fox

Nearly two years after winning the Best Actress Oscar for THE ENGLISH PATIENT, Juliette Binoche finally returns to the screen for a reunion with one of her first directors, Andre Techine. Their second film together (the first was 1985's RENDEZVOUS) marks a return of sorts

for Techine as well; he rebounds from the mediocre thriller LES VOLEURS with this finely tuned example of his preferred genre, the family drama. At the age of 10, Martin Sauvagnac (Jeremy Kreikenmayer) is sent by his mother (early Almodovar regular Carmen Maura) to live with the father he never

really knew, a wealthy married man named Victor (Pierre Maguelon). Ten years later, Martin (Alexis Loret) runs away after Victor's suspicious death, and shows up at the Paris flat his half brother Benjamin (Mathieu Amalric) shares with his friend Alice (Binoche). Martin immediately lands a gig as

a model and falls for Alice with an intensity that borders on obsession; Alice is aloof, but eventually loves him in return. One year later, everything changes: After Alice's happy announcement that she's pregnant. Martin has a near-fatal nervous breakdown and Alice's love is put to the test as

she delves into the mystery of Martin's past. Techine's film, co-written with Gilles Taurand (TIME REGAINED) and fellow director Olivier Assayas (COLD WATER), is very much in the tradition of sudsy, 1950s melodramas in which a cautious woman takes a chance on love, only to find herself fighting

for that love against unforeseen odds. For Alice — whom the ever-radiant Binoche plays with a surprising earthiness — the obstacles to her happiness lie in Martin's family; he, like everyone else in the film, is a product of his troubled home life. That Techine manages to coax a somewhat

happy ending from this staid, somber film is heartening proof that what doesn't kill us might indeed make us stronger.