Paris Memories | Picturehouse Recommends

Paris Memories is a touching tribute to those impacted by the 2015 attacks.

Hannah Strong

26 Jul 23

Paris Memories

Release Date
4 Aug


Virginie Efira, Grégoire Colin, Benoît Magimel, Maya Sansa, Amadou Mbow


Running Time
103 mins

From acclaimed French filmmaker Alice Winocour – whom you may recognise from 2019's Proxima, starring Eva Green and Matt Dillon – comes a piercing new drama that's very close to her heart. Paris Memories is the culmination of conversations Winocour had with her brother about his experience in the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Winocour's brother survived but he was deeply shaken by the events.

The collective grief that their family, and by extension the city of Paris, experienced during that period motivated the director to create this moving, hopeful film about trauma, resilience and the close relationships that are forged by tragedy. 

Virginie Efira – best known for her roles in Paul Verhoeven's Benedetta and Catherine Corsini's An Impossible Love – plays Mia, a professional translator who is dining with her partner Vincent (Grégoire Colin) when he receives a message from the hospital where he works and has to leave. Mia decides to go for a drink on her way home but the bistro she visits is attacked by masked gunmen. In the aftermath, Mia struggles to make sense of her experience. 

Although her physical wounds might have healed, she still can't make sense of that night's events or piece together exactly what happened. Her isolation and confusion lead her to meet with other survivors, and revisiting the scene helps Mia to process her pain.

She starts to understand the impact of the attack on others, including a young teenager and a man named Thomas (Benoît Magimel) who becomes her confidant. While Mia attempts to work through her experience, she becomes aware of the hidden victims of the attack: undocumented workers who were either killed but unaccounted for, or fled out of fear that the police would arrest them as illegal immigrants, rather than help them as victims of the attack.

Winocour's empathetic script emphasises the diverse experiences of victims and that the resulting pain can appear in different forms. 

Paris Memories is also a love letter to the City of Light – we see Mia driving around town on her motorcycle, passing by the many gorgeous landmarks she knows so well. There is a keen sense of reclamation in the film, as Mia rebuilds her life and reconnects with the city she loves.

Winocour sensitively captures not just the pain that Mia experiences, but her great lust for life too, and there is a delicate balance between these elements, complemented by Anna Von Hausswolff's original score and veteran cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine's camerawork. 

Efira rightly won Best Actress at France's 2023 César awards for her portrayal of Mia, and delivers an expertly nuanced and complex performance across the three points at which we see her: before, during and after the attack. She brings an extraordinary believability and sensitivity to the role, avoiding melodrama in the same way that Winocour avoids sensationalism, instead opting for an emphasis on realism.

This approach means that Paris Memories avoids focusing on the tragedy itself, and rather is a testament to the strength and determination it takes to recover from such an experience. With its emphasis on the importance of human connection and prevailing kindness, Paris Memories is a touching tribute to those impacted by the 2015 attacks, and carries a universally important message: together we are stronger.     Hannah Strong

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Paris Memories is in cinemas from 4 Aug Book Now!