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When cancer strikes the mother of the family in this French film, everyone in the family expresses a previously invisible caring and tolerance of the others. The father has always been a bit of a drunk, and is forever chasing younger women. Despite that, he and his wife care for each other, and he tends attentively to her in her last days while remaining unchanged in character. The son and daughter-in-law, whose marriage is somewhat sterile, have similarly penetrating interactions with the dying mother.
La Gueule ouverte was one of the least commercially successful of Pilat's films.
Some critics have viewed the film as semi-autobiographical, and it was described as such in a Masters of Cinema re-release. Pialat’s mother died in the same real place as the one depicted in the film, and the Philippe character is somewhat similar to Pialat himself such that he could be an author surrogate.
Critic Noel Megahey of the cinema website The Digital Fix has described the film as "of such intensity and uncommon brutal honesty about a subject that is usually treated with more delicacy and sensitivity that it can be difficult and challenging to the viewer" but "the effort is certainly rewarded". Critic Jonathan McCalmont of the arts website Ruthless Culture has labeled the film as one of Pilat's most "intrusive" works. McCalmont has also stated that "One of the things that is most fascinating about Pialat as a director is that though completely devoid of sentimentality, his work also shows a perpetual awareness of the temptations that it offers... [its] lack of sentimentality presents itself as a ruthless focus upon the present."
The protagonist, during a medical exam about her illness
Critic Miguel Marías of the film journal Senses of Cinema has praised the film, and commented that "The film shows without the slightest trace of sublimation, self-pity or sentimentality what it really is to stand in hopeless, powerless watch for hours, days or even months, feeling inadequate and useless while tiredly sitting near a bedside or restlessly walking up and down, aimlessly, like a caged tiger around the house, waiting for the once and still (or perhaps again) loved one to die. This figure is probably in pain, or suffering from some sort of physical or psychic decay, and is unable to speak fluently or even to breathe. These are the sorts of things one rather chooses to ignore or forget and does not want to think about, or which one knows directly from close quarters experience."
Source : Wikipedia