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Athena: A French Film Review

Holly Cromwell

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

A review of one of the best made French films I've seen. Athena (2022) is a masterpiece.

Oddly topical, beautifully shot, and as gripping as it was upsetting, ‘Athena’ is an impeccably designed film with a live wire tapped into modern French politics. To go from hearing about riots in France after a black teenager is shot by police, to then watching an acclaimed French film about riots in France after a black teenager is shot by police; it’s quite a surreal experience.


The story follows the lives of three brothers whose lives are suddenly plunged into chaos following the tragic death of their youngest brother. Following the release of video footage of the killing, each brother expresses their grief differently: the eldest brother begs for calm in memory of his brother, while the now youngest rallies the grief-stricken community, both in their housing project and across France, and violence erupts. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that this plot is full of twists and turns, and while realistically chaotic in its depiction, the story has the distinct aura of a Greek tragedy. As a voracious reader, I could see the broad strokes of the story from the offset, and I spent the rest of the film in grim resignation of the resultant death and destruction.


This film makes no qualms in its intention of confronting the audience with uncomfortable truths, including the realities of violence and police brutality, and the consequences of prejudice. It provides a quintessentially French perspective on film as an artform by theatrically presenting an innately political situation in such a way that it doesn’t come across as preachy or activist, and, as I have come to expect from French cinema, each shot is stylised to perfection. 


That perfection comes in chaos. This film is all fast-paced action and explosions, sandwiched between heartbreaking emotion and the confusion of the plot. Every tool in the filmmaker’s arsenal is used masterfully to make the watcher experience the stress of this civil war. I did not watch the whole thing; I took a break in the middle whilst my friends kept watching. This film is so well done that the instant I returned to the sofa I was completely reabsorbed into the story, even as I felt every muscle in my shoulder’s tense. If, like me, you’re not quite in the right mindset for two hours of your heart in your throat, watch the “making of” video on YouTube. It’s just as much a masterpiece as the film.


Alternately, watch the opening sequence. I will force anyone I meet in the next year to watch this. It has pyrotechnics, stunts, and all multiple protagonists all in one take, unbroken for 11 minutes. As an amateur filmmaker I was no less than inspired. 


About the Author

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France Film Drama Culture Romain Gavras Holly Cromwell


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average rating is 3 out of 5, based on 150 votes, Article ratings

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Barbara Dawson

average rating is 3 out of 5

Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

average rating is 3 out of 5

Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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