‘Anatomy of a Fall’: Plot, Awards Chances and Ending Explained

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Samuel Theis, Sandra Hüller and Milo Machado Graner in Anatomy of a Fall. Courtesy of NEON

While it seems like every year post-Parasite there’s been an international film that really breaks through to the mainstream, few have been as accessible and applauded as Anatomy of a Fall. Though this French film premiered at the Cannes festival back in May of 2023, it’s remained a hot title thanks to its incredibly watchable take on the courtroom drama and, of course, its awards chances. Now a two time Golden Globe winner and a five time Oscar nominee, Anatomy of a Fall is a must-watch movie. 

What is Anatomy of a Fall about?

Anatomy of a Fall is a legal drama that revolves around the death of Samuel Maleski, an aspiring writer and occasional professor. His son finds him on the ground after he’s fallen from a window several stories up, but inconsistencies in the autopsy tells the authorities that this was no tragic accident. With Samuel’s wife, Sandra, the only one at home during the fateful event, she becomes the prime suspect and the center of a massive, sensationalized trial. To prove her innocence, Sandra must insist not that the fall was an accident, but that it was her husband’s intention to kill himself, fracturing her family in the process.

Who stars in Anatomy of a Fall?

German actress Sandra Hüller is the star of the proceedings as Sandra Voyter, both in and out of court. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because this isn’t her first time taking part in a foreign film with international appeal. Previously, she was in the Oscar-nominated Toni Erdmann, and this year, she can be seen in The Zone of Interest.

Milo Machado Graner as Daniel in Anatomy of a Fall. Courtesy of NEON

As for the supporting players, César Award-winning French actor Swann Arlaud plays Sandra’s fastidious defense lawyer Vincent, while fellow Frenchman Antoine Reinartz serves as the “nastiest prosecutor of the year.” The real breakout, though, is the youngest member of the cast: 15-year-old Milo Machado Graner plays Sandra’s visually impaired son Daniel, whose testimony becomes a major point of contention in the film. Unsettling and overflowing with uncertainty, it’s a captivating performance among an already-impressive ensemble.

Who made Anatomy of a Fall?

Justine Triet directs the film, while she and her partner Arthur Harari wrote the screenplay together. Though Triet has had some success in Europe, with her previous films making their way to film festivals like Cannes and Berlin and garnering a few French César Award nominations, this is her first bonafide hit. While she doesn’t have anything on the books for her next project just yet, Triet has won plenty of fans who are sure to eagerly await any new movie.

French director Justine Triet poses with the trophy during a photocall after she won the Palme d’Or for the film “Anatomie d’une Chute” (Anatomy of a Fall) during the closing ceremony of the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images

What awards has Anatomy of a Fall won?

After securing the Palme d’Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Anatomy of a Fall became a major player in the awards race. For voting bodies like the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, it was an easy pick as the winner for Best Foreign Language Film, and Triet and co-writer Arthur Harari nabbed an impressive Best Screenplay Award from the Globes too. 

Things get a little more exciting (and complicated) for the Oscars, though, with Anatomy of a Fall excluded from the Best International Film category thanks to some French politicking. Instead, the movie is competing in big categories across the board: not only is it a Best Picture nominee, but it’s got a chance at Best Director and Best Actress too. Plus, with the film nominated for Best Original Screenplay, a category that seemed all but Barbiefied until the strange decision to move Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s script to the adapted screenplay field, there’s a good chance that Triet and Harari can win another trophy. The movie is clearly a favorite among awards voters the world over, but we’ll have to wait and see its final win tally.

Anatomy of a Fall ending, explained: did Sandra kill her husband?

There are no easy, clear and obvious answers for the film, and that’s what makes it so great. Did Sandra do it? Did Samuel kill himself? Does it even really matter? Throughout the movie, characters shine a light on how little weight our own truths carry in situations like this, where a simple resolution is impossible. When Sandra insists to Vincent that she didn’t kill her husband, his response is “That’s not the point.” Later, when Daniel struggles to reconcile the version of his parents that he knew versus the one that’s on trial, his caretaker Marge says that it’s not about knowing. Rather, “all we can do is decide.” This isn’t a whodunnit or a Sorkinesque court drama, but an exploration of what truth even means.

How did they get the dog to do that?

Your guess is as good as mine. One of the movie’s most talked about scenes sees Daniel give Snoop, his guide dog, a dangerous dose of aspirin to test a theory about his mother’s testimony. Snoop, played to perfection by canine actor Messi (who won the pawstigious Palm Dog Award at Cannes), comes close to keeling over and dying, but thankfully things turn out ok for dog and owner alike. It’s a moment sure to make you gasp no matter how many times you’ve seen it, and it’s one of the best examples of animal acting in recent memory.

Where can I watch Anatomy of a Fall?

While the movie is still in a handful of theaters, Anatomy of a Fall is available to rent on Apple TV and Amazon Prime, among other streaming services.

A Guide to ‘Anatomy of a Fall’: Plot, Characters, Awards Chances and More

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