Pascale (Isabelle Huppert), an early middle-aged woman, looks in her mirror, cupping her breasts, accessing their gradual surrender to gravity. As she evaluates the fit of her new dress, taking measure of her new attire, she seeks a second opinion. A younger man standing near responds with assurance.
A second man appears and suggests the couture is whorish, sending both males into laughter. Pascale's equanimity in the face of the slur, suggests the regular fare of acerbic humor.
This preamble to what unfolds like a slice-of-life short story or something written for the stage, initially perplexing, is actually the proverbial thousand-word picture.
The men who could be roommates or lovers turn out to be her late-teen paternal twin sons, with whom she even shares a bathroom while taking a shower, uncovered by a curtain. The group's casual interchange and lack of modesty reveals itself more as an absence of formality than a sign of trust or intimacy. Pascale, responsible for raising her sons and working a full-time job, has time for little else. The boys, Francois (Yannick Renier) and Thierry (Jeremie Renier), usually responsible for the cutting remarks, show little sign of initiative. As they enter manhood, they would like things to remain just as they are.
When Pascale suggests she may want to sell the only house the boys have known and take on a male partner, emotions, long smothered, emerge for an airing.
Private Property brings freshness to a contemporary dilemma, eschewing the dramatic certainty of mainstream films. It unfolds at its own pace, which demands a savor occasionally absent. The steady performance of veteran Huppert helps to offset these lapses -- a liability in this particular style of filmmaking.