Pauline & Paulette

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Drama

Belgian director Lieven Debrauwer's feature-film debut is a sentimental but entirely irresistible portrait of three aging sisters whose lives are thrown out of balance when the fourth passes away. Cheerful, mentally challenged Pauline (Dora van der Groen) lives in the picturesque Flemish town of Lochristi with her older sister, Martha (Julienne De Bruyn)....read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Belgian director Lieven Debrauwer's feature-film debut is a sentimental but entirely irresistible portrait of three aging sisters whose lives are thrown out of balance when the fourth passes away. Cheerful, mentally challenged Pauline (Dora van der Groen) lives in the picturesque Flemish town of Lochristi with her older sister, Martha (Julienne De Bruyn). Martha does everything for Paulette: She prepares her breakfast, makes sure that her shoes are tied and sends her off on simple errands with a stern warning to steer clear of their sister Paulette (Ann Petersen). Paulette runs a tony fabric shop in which everything is a beguiling shade of rose, and Pauline clearly makes Paulette and her customers uncomfortable. But Pauline can't help herself: She adores roses and she adores Paulette, who's achieved some small local fame as the diva of Lochristi's operetta company. Paulette's uneasy relationship with her sister is complicated when Martha suddenly dies. Martha's will divides all of her property equally among Pauline, Paulette and their youngest sister, Cecile (Rosemarie Bergmans), who lives in Brussels with her humorless French boyfriend Albert (Idwig Stephane). But there's one proviso: One of the surviving sisters must care for Pauline. If Cecile and Paulette decide to put her in an institution, Pauline becomes the sole beneficiary. Paulette agrees to take her in until Cecile gets settled back in Brussels, but she soon learns that there's one thing harder than life with Pauline: life without her. While Debrauwer hardly presents a realistic portrait of the challenges caregivers often face living with the mentally retarded — throughout, Pauline behaves more like a charming, docile child — but compare it to say, MOLLY, in which Elisabeth Shue's character walks around stark naked and cavorts in public fountains, and you'll begin to appreciate Debrauwer's gentle approach. Add two wonderful performances, from van der Groen (last seen here in the Academy-Award winning ANTONIA'S LINE) and the marvelous Petersen, and the result is something truly special — the most welcome Belgian export since Alain Berliner's MA VIE EN ROSE. (In Flemish and French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Belgian director Lieven Debrauwer's feature-film debut is a sentimental but entirely irresistible portrait of three aging sisters whose lives are thrown out of balance when the fourth passes away. Cheerful, mentally challenged Pauline (Dora van der Groen)… (more)

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