In “My Zoe,” his latest film as writer / director / actor, Delpy’s character, Isabelle, is the mourning blue of his melancholy story, which features a mother and ex-wife grieving for her daughter. Zoe (Sophia Ally) falling into a coma, while confronting her ex-husband James (Richard Armitage), and opting for a futuristic way out of her pain. Delpy is handling this in such a raw, painful and confident way. So it’s amazing to see Delpy claim in the film’s press notes that it’s not a personal story, but inspired by the fear of losing his own son. It’s more of Delpy’s imagination about such a horror, and yet she has the overwhelming stream of consciousness of watching someone write a journal entry. It’s a strong testament to her emotional daring as a storyteller, in front of and behind the camera.
There is a lot of sadness slowly building up in this story for Isabelle de Delpy, starting with the failed marriage that we have glimpsed in many malicious conversations. Before Zoe is in a coma, the movie’s biggest problem is with the couple sharing custody of their daughter, days of negotiation and finding a balance, with her job as an immunologist often being a hindrance. James is avenging for the way the marriage ended, even though there is an obvious urgency in him to try to save it. Isabelle broke him a long time ago, and although she hugs him when he asks after a fight early in the movie, she does so with her eyes wide open.
One morning while staying with Isabelle, Zoe does not wake up. Her comatose state, brought on by an aneurysm after a playground accident the day before, is a nightmare that the film slowly creeps into. In a Berlin hospital, Isabelle and James wait for answers and steal their anguish, while Stéphane Fontaine’s cinematography sometimes catches their gaiters from afar, always with an icy blue glow. With an at times awkward dialogue with a backstory of their complicated past, they only seem to find a break when Zoe’s latest news turns out to be too heavy. Blame on Zoe’s condition becomes the only kind of resolution that seems close at hand. The news gets worse and worse, and Delpy and Armitage show the natural, silent wear and tear that these developments would have on a parent.