La Lectrice (1988)

 “At your age, with each book, anything can happen.”

La Lectrice or The Reader is Constance (Miou-Miou)–a woman who reads to her boyfriend in bed. The book she reads aloud is called La Lectrice, and it’s the story of an optimistic young woman named Marie who decides to become a professional reader. The film goes back and forth between scenes of Constance reading about Marie, and Marie’s many adventures.

Marie places an advertisement in a local paper, and a number of people employ her. Jocelyn (Brigitte Catillon) employs Marie to read to her wheelchair-bound son, Eric (Regis Royer). A visually impaired general’s widow, an ardent Leninist, also employs Marie. A young, affluent and busy mother employs Marie to read Alice in Wonderland to her precocious child. A divorced, middle-aged businessman employs Marie simply because he misinterprets the advert and the services she’s willing to offer.

La Lectrice is a light, charming French comedy–if you liked Chocolat (the Juliette Binoche/Johnny Depp film), there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy La Lectrice. Everyone who employs Marie is missing something in life, and they seek it through reading books. Marie selects certain books for each person she reads to, and oddly, the action in the books uncannily mirrors the actions in real life. For example, Eric seems focused on love poetry, and he proceeds to fall in love with Marie.

Miou-Miou plays the dual roles of Constance and Marie with self-assurance and a steady belief that everyone needs books in their lives. Above all, La Lectrice pays homage to a love of books, the limitless power of the imagination, and the instant ability of a reader to become lost in another world. From director Michel Deville.

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