Since her star-making turn in “Phantom Thread,” the Luxembourgish actress Vicky Krieps has found fertile work, particularly in European productions, playing women responding to tragedy, sometimes with recklessness or self-harm.
“More Than Ever,” a solid (mostly) French-language weepie, follows suit, with Krieps playing as Hélène, a 30-something married woman suffering from a rare and debilitating lung disease. Directed by Emily Atif, this middlebrow drama showcases Krieps’s captivating blend of melancholic fragility and spiky tenacity, riding on the strength of its performers, including the Gaspard Ulliel in his final live-action role before his accidental death in 2022.
Ulliel plays Hélène’s loyal hubbie, Matthieu, whom we first see applying mascara to his feeble wife before a social outing. Their pals tiptoe awkwardly around the knowledge of Hélène’s health, triggering a minor meltdown by Hélène that also sketches out the tensions that inform the rest of the film.
Matthieu refuses to give up hope while Hélène inches toward an acceptance of her fate that requires her to reframe her life. This means untethering herself from the past, her spouse included. This understanding comes courtesy of an “Eat Pray Love” style excursion to rural Norway, where Hélène bunks with a friend she met on the internet, Bent (Bjorn Floberg), a blogger with terminal cancer, a dark sense of humor and an idyllic property at the edge of a lake.
Krieps and Ulliel give weight and texture to the couple’s push and pull. Guilt and grief intermingle, but no single feeling stands up to the brute fact of Hélène’s physical deterioration, made stark against an impassive backdrop of crystal waters and shivering woodlands. If her past films haven’t already made this clear, this is one of Krieps’s trademarks: transcendence through willful obliteration.
More Than Ever
Not rated. In French, English and Norwegian, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes. In theaters.