Dir: Sylvain Desclous | Cast: Rebecca Marder, Benjamin Levernhe, Emmanuelle Bercot, Marc Barbe | France, Drama 105′
Benjamin Lavernhe and Rebecca Murder star as hypocritical left-wing lawyers in this ambitious but flawed film that starts in a glorious modern villa in Corsica and winds up in a prison in Lyon.
Madeleine (Marder) is on holiday with her lover Antoine at his father’s swanky beach villa near Porto Vecchio. One morning, driving along a small deserted road, their career prospects are dashed forever when they make a fatal decision with irreversible consequences.
High hopes of this turning into a sultry seaside thriller sink without trace in Sylvain Desclous’ follow-up to his 2016 feature debut Vendeur. What starts as a pithy psychological drama with an intelligent premise and a brief tension-fuelled police procedural, soon gets bogged down in a far less promising slice of social realism weighed down by tedious political pretensions in the style of Ken Loach.
Ultimately Grand Expectations doesn’t know whether it wants to be a thriller or a drama centring on workers’ rights. And it ends up failing on both counts. The characters of Antoine and Madeleine are badly thought out and totally un-likeable. And they’re implausible into the bargain, showing no real warmth or compassion in relation to their aims in life: No humanist individual would behave the way Madeleine or Benjamin do, so we really don’t care what happens to either of them. Bercot is cast in another hard-faced unsympathetic role – this time as a lawyer and union representative. Isabelle Huppert made a much more sympathetic job of it in her recent film Le Syndicaliste. Madeleine’s father (Barbe) is convincing as her estranged parent who walked out on the family and gets a chance to redeem himself, providing the vital link in the film’s denouement.
The accident and its aftermath – the most fascinating part of the feature – takes a backseat for most of the film, Madeleine hardly giving it a second thought while focusing of her career prospects, and only thinking of her own glory while pretending to champion workers’ rights. The original plot-line is then shoed in again in the final act with an unfeasible outcome for all concerned. MT
ON RELEASE IN FRANCE