Sandra (Sanda Huller) is a German writer living in the Alps close to the French city of Grenoble married to a Frenchman, Samuel (Samuel Theis), and their blind eight-year-old son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner). Sandra’s French isn’t strong, so her alternative speaking language is English. One day, when Daniel returns from walking the dog, he stumbles upon his father, dead from falling from the attic of the house. Under the loop of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P. being blasted out, Sandra runs out, having seen what has happened. She contacts the police, who begin to suspect foul play. With circumstantial evidence pointing to Sandra, she is defended by Vincent (Swann Arlaud), who has a much more difficult task with no obvious evidence that exonerates her.
Writer/director Justine Triet takes inspiration from the Amanda Knox trial, where an American woman was accused of killing her British roommate in Italy. Triet goes into painstaking detail about the whole trial. There is no score, so the only suspense hinges on every word spoken by Sandra, Daniel, the prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz), and the judge while Sandra is on the stand. Triet and co-writer (Triet’s real-life partner Arthur Harari) write down in dialogue all the facts while intercutting with major flashbacks as the background to Sandra is unraveled. It almost feels like a documentary when the scene shifts to the courtroom, and every beat is seen.
Sandra Huller, who is having her year thanks to also starring in The Zone of Interest, gives one of the best performances of the year. With her character, it is not obvious whether or not she is guilty or innocent, and only as the investigation and trial go on can the mysterious web be unwrapped. The story then questions if Sandra is sincere and who she really is with conversations about her bisexuality and views towards her husband being out in the open. Daniel is in the middle, testifying to what he remembers while also having to absorb these revelations about his parents he had no idea of. This is a family tragedy, and it is on him to say whether his mother is guilty or innocent.
Anatomy Of A Fall requires a little bit of patience in going through the facts and allowing us to make up our own minds on who Sandra is really. It deconstructs the events surrounding Samuel’s death and reconstructs who Sandra is without the need for a sudden event that overdramatizes the story. What goes on in people’s homes is a secret to us, but when it is recorded, it erases perceptions and boggles the minds of those who saw something different in the first place. Yet, Triet does an excellent job of keeping out any radical twists or action, keeping it all simple for the audience.