The Refuge gets the heavy stuff out of the way first: two drug addicts. One overdoses. The other one wakes up pregnant. No more drugs. Five minutes down, on with the movie!
The Refuge is an imperfect wisp of a movie, with charming atmosphere and pleasant characters but a few key misfires that stopped it from being more than a passably good film.
Mousse (Isabelle Carré) and her boyfriend Louis overdose on heroin. Louis dies, but Mousse lives – and finds out that she’s pregnant. She lives out her pregnancy in a seaside village, where she is joined by Louis’ brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy).
The Refuge is lacking in narrative, the only goal on its horizon being that of nine months: the birth of a baby. As such, the film is pleasantly aimless, a character piece in an idyllic location. To be fair, this is the sort of movie that I like, but not everything is quite right about it.
Paul is suspected by Mousse to be gay for no readily discernible reason; the fact that he is somehow fails to comfort. He has a nice relationship with Mousse’s delivery boy. He also has a dark secret that entirely fails to be dark whatsoever, and both he and Mousse suffer that constant affliction of the film protagonist: no visible means of income.
The rest of the film is insubstantial but pleasant enough not to warrant much in the way of further comment. The whole is wispy to the point that it could almost disappear.
It is only at the patently ridiculous ending that anything comes into relief. François Ozon has directed an irresponsible and somewhat horrifying “movie” ending, and one that could never fly in real life. It’s at this point you realise that the film never addressed why Mousse and Louis were addicted in the first place (not that this strictly matters), and how Mousse was able to come down from her addiction seemingly without any difficulties, all while living alone.
If you want a nice enough film marred by an inexplicable ending and the penetrability of a soap bubble, The Refuge is not a bad choice, but you could almost certainly do better.