With apologies to the foreign-film buffs, In the Name of My Daughter (L'Homme Qu'on Aimait Trop) is a dramatic thriller sans thrills. Set on the idyllic, lapis-lazuli shores of the French Riviera, the film is based on actual events, the so-called "Le Roux Affair." In the film and in the historic case on which it's based, a casino heiress in Nice falls for her mother's shady lawyer and disappears in 1977. The ensuing investigation wasn't resolved until 2014 — happy Googling! — but even after doing some cursory online research (to say nothing of watching this film), you may, in the end, be as satisfied as I've been, which is to say: not very. It opens at the Cedar Lee Friday for a limited engagement.
The film is directed by one of France's most successful directors, Andre Techine, so you'll be inclined towards patience. But the film fails to deploy appropriate cinematic tools which might have turned this bitter romance into a riveting story of manipulation and criminal conspiracy. As it stands, the film doesn't seem like it's about a crime at all.
Indeed, without knowing beforehand, you'd have no inkling that it was anything other than a story of unrequited love — words like "mob," "casino" and "suspect" in the promotional literature notwithstanding. It's a trudging narrative about a relationship gone sour with a lovely casino in the background. The arrival of a courtroom drama in the film's final 20 minutes, 30 years after the total narrative of the film, is a baffling development which we can only assume was mandated by the studio in France (much more hip to that country's cultural imagination, no doubt).
Here's the gist: After traveling the world and emerging — a bit the worse for wear — from an impassioned marriage, Agnes Le Roux (Adele Hanuel) returns to Nice to start a book shop with her share of the family inheritance. Her mother, Madame Renee Le Roux (Catherine Daneuve), has become the president of the palatial casino which is losing serious business to an ownership group with ties to the mob. Thus financially imperilled, Renee won't Agnes her share of the company, and Agnes turns to her mother's jilted lawyer Maurice for aid. (Guillame Canet's not bad as Maurice, but he's owed residual acclaim for directing 2006's magnificent French thriller Tell No One).
Maurice seduces Agnes, but seems more like a regular asshole than the manipulative asshole he's built up to be. Sure, he convinces Agnes to side with "the mob" and kick her mother out of the casino; sure, he establishes a joint bank account over which he has full and exclusive access; sure, he beds her. But as Agnes falls ever more desperately and suicidally in love with him, he grows colder and more distant. (He's a married man with other mistresses, after all.)
And then Agnes disappears? But where's the foreboding score? Where's the brooding/furtive glances? Where's the B-storyline with an enterprising journalist who sniffs out the scandal?
On a positive note, the young actress Adele Hanuel is phenomenal as the tortured Le Roux heiress. In her freighted relationship with her mother and in her doomed obsession with Maurice, she proves herself to be fully worthy of the accolades she's getting in Europe.
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