Posted: 07/14/2002


The Lost Son


by Del Harvey

Raymond Chandler lives again in Eric Leclere’s hard-boiled Xavier Lombard.

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In true detective fashion, world-weary P.I. Xavier Lombard (Daniel Auteuil—Manon of the Spring) is wrapping up another case. A husband has hired Lombard to find out if his wife is cheating on him. In a scene most telling of contemporary attitudes and economy, Lombard confronts the wife with his photographic and tape recorded evidence. He quickly takes up her offer for more cash if he will lie to her husband. After handing him the money, she quickly judges him as despicable. Lombard responds, “Hey, lady—I just saved your marriage.”

A French expatriate in London, Lombard’s cases tend towards the less-than-glamorous; but his is not a glamorous lifestyle. Out of the blue, he receives a call from his former partner on the Paris police, Carlos (Ciaran Hinds—Road to Perdition), inviting him to come meet his new bride and her parents in his London home. All of this is a complete surprise to Lombard, who wasn’t aware that his old partner had even left France. Especially odd since both were booted off the force under mysterious circumstances. Turns out it’s just a ruse to get Lombard to find their missing son, Leon, a photographer in his early 30’s who has been dabbling in some erotic works for private clients. The parents seem very positive about this action, but Carlos’ wife Deborah (Nastassia Kinski) is quite obviously against it.

Accepting the job, Lombard finds himself deeply involved in an investigation that includes murder, a child sex ring, and a mysterious Austrian, who may or may not be the ringleader. Lombard’s investigation leads him to Emily (Katrin Cartlidge), a former girlfriend of Leon’s who is holding something special for him—a young boy who will not speak. Around this same time Lombard discovers Leon’s link to a pedophile ring, although it appears he was tricked into any involvement. And the boy was a victim of the ring.

Eventually, Lombard is led to Friedman (Bruce Greenwood—Thirteen Days), the man who grooms children for their new life on a small ranch in Mexico. Along the way Lombard picks up another young boy, asking Emily to keep him, too. Friedman, as it turns out, is not the elusive “Austrian,” which seems to be one of the few words any of the boys can say, and that is usually in abject horror.

Lombard’s best friend in London is another ex-pat, Nathalie, a prostitute. Their relationship is unique in that there is no sex between them, and Lombard seems to like to play big brother to her. Nathalie is a great help in getting him closer to the pedophiles through her connections in the life.

A World Apart director Chris Menges’ The Lost Son has all the markings of a true film noir, with the updated approach of tackling a difficult topic and doing it with decency and respect for its victims.

As Lombard, Auteuil is absolutely on target. His characterization is typical of the genre, but with his own peculiarities adding just the right nuance to help us appreciate him all the more. Katrin Cartlidge’s Emily is an endearing everyWoman full of compassion and common sense. Marianne Denicourt’s Nathalie is a realist, with absolutely no false pretenses, which makes her a perfect friend to Lombard’s romanticist. Greenwood is effective as the vile Friedman, a businessman whose abuse of children is ignored for the sake of money.

Screenwriter and author Eric Leclere has had some difficulties in his experiences both in publication and in adapting his story to film. But he is continuing with the Lombard series and has formed his own publishing entity, Alibi Books, and more titles will be available soon.

The Lost Son is one of the best contemporary film noirs I have seen in a long, long time. For the true noir fan, this is a must-see film. I only hope Auteuil can return in the next production.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of FM. He lives in Southern California. He is a devout Chicago Bears fan, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.

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