All the pieces of Al’s (Raphael Personnaz) life are coming together. He’s about to marry his boss’s (Jean-Pierre Malo) daughter (Adele Haenel), making him the acting manager of his business, and Al doesn’t seem like he can get any happier. Things go wrong when he accidentally runs a man over with his car late one night and is convinced by his friends to drive away and leave the man in the street so he won’t get in trouble. In the heat of the moment, he does drive off, but the guilt of the incident plagues him. The only witness to the crime is Juliette (Clotilde Hesme), who stays with the victim until the ambulance and police arrive, but is unable to identify the driver of the car. She takes it on herself to track down the victim’s wife (Arta Dobroshi), an illegal immigrant desperate for money and unsure how she’ll survive with her husband in the hospital.
The above synopsis is only a small portion of the web of storylines going on in this film, and yet it never gets overly complicated. Near the end of the film, I was surprised to discover it’s runtime is only 100 minutes. It felt like a solid two hours, but not in a bad way. There is so much that happens in this film that it is hard to believe it’s so efficiently put together as to fit everything into this short runtime. Most of the credit of the film’s success has to go to the cast. Personnaz’s anxious and neurotic portrayal of Al’s inner-conflict is perfect, and there’s something wonderfully realistic about the way he continues to make mistakes as he tries to make things right with his victim’s family.
Dobroshi’s performance is fantastically complicated too. She takes a very pragmatic approach to her grief, and is clearly devastated by her husband’s accident, but her basic need for money in order to survive grounds her in a place that’s difficult to sympathize with, but the way she reacts is consistently understandable.
Maybe the one character whose motivations are more difficult to understand is Juliette, who is able to spot Al at the hospital and recognize him as the driver, but does not turn him in to the police even though she’s already begun to bond with Vera. Maybe she is simply afraid of conflict, or getting anyone in trouble, but I think that’s me reading into it rather than something coming from the film. She does confront Al, and she is clearly capable of anger, but something stops her from turning him in. Possibly, just the fact that it makes for a less interesting movie. Hesme’s performance is still very good, but I wish there was something here to help explain the choices she makes.
Also included with the DVD is a fantastic short film called “The Piano Tuner,” in which a former piano prodigy takes a job tuning pianos to make ends meet and pretends to be blind because it gets him better tips. Available on DVD from Film Movement on September 10.