French writer-director Diane Kurys ("Entre Nous") is not one to shy away from autobiography, and her new film, "For a Woman," another story of marriage, divorce, ideology and sisterhood, is no exception.
It's 1991 and filmmaker Anne (Sylvie Testud) struggles against the wishes of her older sister Tania (Julie Ferrier) to grasp the circumstances surrounding their Ukrainian-born parents' split in the years after surviving the same prison camp during World War II.
When the central action settles on 1945-47 Lyon, we get the tale of Lena (Mélanie Thierry) and Michel (Benoît Magimel), forging a life for themselves in France — he as a budding shop owner and energetic Communist Party member, she an increasingly bored housewife and new mother.
The atmosphere shifts when Michel's long-lost younger brother Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle) appears mysteriously, claiming to be a deserter-hunting Red Army agent, when all signs point to a more principled, but no less dangerous, mission as a justice-seeking Jew.
This is where Kurys' saga gets pretty soapy. Duvauchelle's Jean is a broodingly hunky, troubled one-third of a love triangle right out of Central Casting. But there's storytelling vigor here and fine performances, plus some pointed exchanges about the burdens of cultural identity and emotional preservation in the aftermath of immense upheaval.
"For a Woman."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.