White Material Review

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Faced with an escalating civil war in a volatile African state, coffee planter Maria (Isabelle Huppert) must chose between safety and protecting her way of life, a course that proves increasingly dangerous.


Fussily structured and brusquely concluded, Claire Denis’ return to Africa still offers some fascinating insights into the reprehensible actions that can seemingly be justified by a love of country. As in The Sea Wall, a taciturn Isabelle Huppert clings to her colonial idyll, as she attempts to gather a coffee crop in the face of a civil war that arrives on her doorstep in the form of some child soldiers, a politically ambitious mayor and a wounded rebel. Yet, despite ex-husband Christophe Lambert and slacker son Nicolas Duvauchelle betraying her with respective cool calculation and deranged recklessness, Huppert cuts an unsympathetic figure.

Claire Denis' drama is an overly fastidious but insight-filled look at post-colonial Africa.