The story here is a little bit specious and even cloying at times. Isabelle Huppert plays Sylvia, a druggie prostitute who seems to care only about her booze and pills. She plies her trade on the streets of Nice. Her 14-year-old daughter, Laurence (Maud Forget) appears out of nowhere, having run away from her foster home. Sylvia tells her to get lost. She doesn't, and in the next scene, trying to protect her mother from a couple of pimps who are starting to beat her up for some money, the 14-year-old somehow stabs one of them. The other runs out the door. The stabbed man is dead, and mother and daughter are on the run as in a Hollywood on the lam movie.
I don't think I need to tell the reader that mom is going to find the love she really feels for her daughter in addition to finding her own heart, and so I won't, because it isn't that simple. The story though is rather ordinary and predictable and is told with a number of loose ends just left lying about, not the least of which is the dead man.
No matter however because:
(1) Isabelle Huppert is brilliant and very convincing as a low-class, trashy kind of person who lies almost habitually, even when she doesn't need to, a person lacking social skills or really any kind of skill. Her hair is too too blonde and she dresses like a tramp.
But it is amazing how comfortable Huppert looks in the role. Again I am very much impressed with her ability. I wonder if there is a more talented actress working anywhere in the world today. She is almost obsessive in the way she becomes the characters she plays. I've seen her in half a dozen films and in everyone she was a distinctly different person.
(2) The movie is beautifully shot with arresting scenes of earth and sky, unlike anything one usually sees in a domestic French movie.
(3) The music, some of it American country and western, some of it classical, was wonderfully chosen and coordinated with the story of the film in a way that enhances our appreciation. That is what is usually attempted of course. The idea being that music should help to trigger our response; but often the attempt is only halfhearted or too obviously directive. Here the music helps to bring the film to life.
(4) The story is uplifting and redemptive.
One more thing: the title in English, The Promise Life, is not a good translation of what is intended by the French, La Vie Promise. Better would be "The Promised Life," although that would be inaccurate. Also unsatisfactory would be "The Life of Promise." What I like is the title sometimes given to the film, "Ghost River." There is a beautiful line in the film that refers to "The flow of the ghost river" that I think somehow illustrates the life Sylvia has lead.
By all means see this beautiful if somewhat sentimental film for Isabelle Huppert, one of the great stars of the modern cinema.