The Midwife

Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve light up this French drama from writer-director Martin Provost, who knows how to write strong characters for women (Séraphine, Violette) but whose stars here are forced to do much of the heavy lifting. Frot brings her usual warmth to the role of Claire, a middle-aged midwife whose clinic is being absorbed by a big hospital, and the regal Deneuve plays against type as Beatrice, a frowsy old woman who was once mistress to Claire’s father and now shows up at her door terminally ill and hungry for solace. At one point Deneuve executes a difficult crying scene in order to sell one of Provost’s contrivances, but for the most part the veteran actresses salvage the soapy plot by playing their scenes together with a Gallic toughness. In French with subtitles.