Attempting a mixture of black comedy and mystery is ambitious. You look at the description of the film and it seems very interesting. You are tempted but hesitant wondering if the minds behind the film have bitten off more than they can chew. When you realize that it is the French brother director team of Jean-Marie and Arnaud Larrieu (Happy End) then you breathe a little easier. These two are capable of such delicacy and nuances that you sit back and enjoy.
University of Lausanne professor Marc (Mathieu Almaric – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solace) is taking one of his students to his cabin for a romp between the sheets. After a fun evening, where Marc wakes up in the morning Barbara (Sara Forestier – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Gainsbourg) is gone. No thinking very much of it, Marc continues on with his life.
Back at work teaching, Marc is shocked when Barbara’s young stepmother, Anna (Maiwenn – The Professional, The Fifth Element), tells him that Barbara has disappeared. Anna is faced with double distress as her husband, who is in the army, has been reported missing as well.
Things go from bad to worse for Marc when the straight laced head of his department, Richard (Denis Podalydès – The Da Vinci Code, Caché), tells Marc, who has a reputation as a ladies’ man, not to be seen talking to Anna as it is not good for his professional life. This is especially tough news coming from Richard as he and Marc rarely see eye to eye. The tension between the two makes the fact that Richard has feelings for Marc’s sister, Marianne (Karin Viard – Delicatessan), even more uncomfortable. Marc and Marianne are very close.
Though this is not your typical mystery it is handled somewhat like one as the directors just let little bits of information out piece by piece. The more we learn the more things look back for our likeable protagonist. It certainly is done in the style of a Hitchcockian dark thriller with plenty of nervous tension created and intelligence. Make no mistake though, this film is completely a creation of the Larrieu brothers.
Not only is this a product of the two directors, but it is also a very French film. It is funny though in a thoroughly dark and delicious way. It is very stylized with its illustration of Marc’s fantasy life, dominant cinematography and set design with every little aspect of the two though through and the very modern electro score. These are the wonderful for the viewer decisions that French films seem to make and that their Hollywood counterparts don’t have the vision or cahones to. All of these touches add up to a film that makes you grin in delight of its darker aspects and suffer a shiver or two due to all the suspense.
The worse the situation gets for Marc the better the film gets. And the actor portraying the lead character is up to the challenge of playing this guy who seems to attract every woman he meets yet we don’t really know why. Almaric beautifully brings to the screen a man who seems to have control over very little in his life and when his student that he slept with disappears his whole life unravels.