29 May 2024
Louis Garrell's The Innocent now in UK Trailer read our review

Film Review – The Innocent (2022)

Louis Garrell's The Innocent now in UK Trailer read our review
The Innocent, directed by and starring Louis Garrel, is a comedy-drama heist film with a premise that initially presents as a cliché, but the film’s tight script and excellent performances will surprise audiences to keep watching until the end. At its most reductive, The Innocent follows Abel (Garrel) as he tries to warn his mother, Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg), against her new husband, Michel (Roschdy Zem). Along for the eventual increasingly comedic and wacky ride is Clémence (Noémie Merlant), Abel’s high-spirited, usually dog-wielding aquarium coworker and best friend.

Sylvie is a drama teacher at a prison, and Michel is one of her students. She marries him shortly before his release, leading to cutting remarks from Abel, a depressive widower in his early thirties, who points out flatly that this is Sylvie’s third husband in 10 years. His distrust of Michel and warnings to his mother are consistently dismissed by Sylvie, as well as by Clémence, who urges Abel to focus on his own life. When Sylvie quits teaching drama and opens a flower shop with Michel, Abel tries to come around and support the endeavour, but he is unable to quell his suspicions. He becomes obsessed with proving that Michel is up to no good, and when his trailing of and spying on his new stepfather is discovered, what follows is an intertwining of characters and events in unexpected ways that are a skilful mix of funny, silly, and touching.

Michel’s partner in his upcoming caper, Jean-Paul (Jean-Claude Pautot), demands that Michel do something about Abel’s obvious spying; in response, Michel confronts Abel and ropes him the plan, which involves breaking into and robbing a truck that is transporting Iranian caviar. Expecting support and confirmation from Clémence that this is a dangerous idea, she instead turns the script on its head by enthusiastically pushing Abel to participate, becoming ecstatic when—while standing at the grave of Abel’s deceased wife (who also happens to be Clémence’s best friend)—Abel offers to cut her into the deal if she participates. This leads to a layered comical scene expertly acted by Garrel, Merlant, Zem and Pautot as they work out the details of the plan. Throughout all of this covert scheming, Sylvie remains blindly in love with Michel. Grinberg is superb in both her airy portrayal of Sylvie’s giddy, starry-eyed self in Michel’s presence and in her heartbreaking, angry rejection of her son’s desperate attempts to communicate and help.

The film’s pace is steady and quick and the climax, which takes place at a truck stop and blends realism with zaniness, sees an excellent back-and-forth performance from Garrel and Merlant as the characters go off-script and surprise themselves and each other. A strong cast, strong direction, and a script that deftly balances drama, family complexities and grief with comedy, absurdism and romance makes The Innocent a must-watch.

★★★★

Crime, Comedy, Drama | France, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | 25th August 2023 (UK) | MetFilm Distribution | Dir. Louis Garrel | Louis Garrel, Roschdy Zem, Noémie Merlant, Anouk Grinberg, Jean-Claude Pautot


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