Dir.: Fred Cavayé
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Gilles Lellouche, Nadine Labaki, Max Baissette de Malglaive
France 2014, 90 min. Thriller
MEA CULPA runs on similar lines to his 2008 outing Anything for Her: Cavayé integrates the family of the main protagonist into the narrative, only this time the best buddy and his daughter are also part of the plot. These involvements are the saving grace of a film that relies heavily on action sequences, which often stretch reality far beyond breaking point.
We start on the beach, where the two cops Simon (Lindon) and Franck (Lellouche) are having a family holiday with Simon’s wife Alice (Labaki), their son Theo (de Malglaive) and Franck’s daughter, whose mother died at birth. The idyll is quickly shattered, when Simon, under the influence, crashes into a car, killing a family, including a child. He is dismissed from the police, sent to prison and after his release unable to care for his family. Fast forward six years: Simon is working as a security guard, neglecting his son, guilt ridden and full of self pity. Then Theo witnesses a game-changing event involving the Mafia which eventually leads to a grand finale on a the TGV, where not only the rather faceless gangsters are finished off for good, but we learn a secret that changes everything we have witnessed so far…
Set in Toulon, Cavayé endearingly evokes the closeness of the two families: the shattered existence of all protagonists after the car crash is painful to watch. When Simon re-establishes himself, we rout for him not only because he is the good guy, but we want him to succeed and overcome his trauma. Tension is ramped up in many chase scenes involving Theo which are shot in dimly-lit buildings and narrow streets, making for a very claustrophobic setting. Lindon, as usual, dominates the proceedings, whilst Lellouche is somehow relegated to second best. Labaki’s Alice is fragile but stands up to her husband, and de Malglaive’s Theo is perhaps a little too cute and precocious.
MEA CULPA has just enough emotional depth to qualify as a thriller, overall the sum is more than its, very well-executed, genre parts.
ON RELEASE FROM FRIDAY 5TH DECEMBER 2014