Summer Hours

A mother dies. A family gathers to divide the estate and trade memories. Life and death, those persistent cliches, duke it out once more at a country house just outside Paris. From familiar material, writer-director Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Boarding Gate) crafts a near perfect blend of humor and heartbreak, a lyrical masterwork that measures loss in terms practical and evanescent. The great Edith Scob is superb as the seventy-five-year-old widow who furnished the elegant mansion she inherited from her artist uncle with the artifacts of a lifetime. When she dies, the fate of the house passes to her three children. Adrienne, the subtle, sensational Juliette Binoche, has little use for France or her mother's past life. Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) has plans to move to China. Only Frédéric (Charles Berling), the eldest, would like the house to stay in the family. That's it. But out of that "it," Assayas creates that rare summer movie — one that matters. Lots of films are called haunting, Summer Hours truly is.

(Get more news and reviews from Peter Travers on his blog, the Travers Take)