Review of “Hors du Temps” (Suspended Time): A Lockdown Memoir That Brings Back Childhood Joy

Review of “Hors du Temps” (Suspended Time): A Lockdown Memoir That Brings Back Childhood Joy


Olivier Assayas has created a delicate yet sophisticated self-portrait in his new film, depicting his personal encounters during the Covid lockdown. The story centers around his family as they gather in their rural childhood home in France. This film serves as a reminder that despite the many worries and concerns during this time, adults of a particular generation and financial stability were able to find some enjoyment in the forced break from work. It evokes memories of carefree summer days from childhood, a peaceful existence beyond the constraints of time that busy media professionals never thought they would experience again. It’s almost like a miracle.

Vincent Macaigne portrays the unkempt Etienne, a filmmaker distinct in appearance from the stylish Assayas. Etienne has returned to his late parents’ beautiful home, accompanied by his girlfriend Nine d’Urso. He stays in touch with his ex-wife and beloved tween daughter through Zoom. Living with Etienne is his brother Paul, a music journalist, and Paul’s new partner Nora Hamzawi. Assayas features his own residence in the film and, in a personal voiceover, introduces us to the house and its surroundings, which are arguably the highlight of the movie. He also breaks the fourth wall and discusses his own family in later scenes.

Paul has the ability to capture radio broadcasts from his home and begins working on a program discussing famous music artists who have passed away from Covid, beginning with Dave Greenfield from the band The Stranglers. (For a brief moment, I thought Assayas would include some great Stranglers songs, while Paul pretended to play guitar. Unfortunately, this did not happen.) Etienne doesn’t have much to do besides wander around and contemplate ideas for movies. Etienne’s extreme focus on staying clean and avoiding Covid starts to annoy Paul, who in turn bothers Etienne with his cooking. However, there are still moments of shared meals and laughter between the two.

It is difficult to find a better example of the contrast between French and British cinema than this movie. Which British filmmaker would have the liberty to indulge in such civilized and cultured contemplation? And to assume that there would be a receptive audience for it in their home country? This film features a scene where a character listens to a podcast of Jean Renoir discussing his father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and it is truly intriguing. I’m grateful that Assayas had the opportunity to make this film.