- Sébastien Marnier
- Run Time
- 2 hours and 3 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord,
but gracious words are pure.
Those greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households,
but those who hate bribes will live.
Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbors work for nothing
and does not give them their wages,
who says, “I will build myself a spacious house
with large upper rooms,”
and who cuts out windows[a] for it,
paneling it with cedar
and painting it with vermilion…
But your eyes and heart
are only on your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.
The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.
The title of Sébastien Marnier’s intriguing thriller sounds like a metaphysical treatise examining the Genesis myth of the Fall, but it is far more prosaic, focusing upon the patriarch of a wealthy family and a long-lost illegitimate daughter trying to reconnect with her father. All concerned in this story would have done well to have heeded the above two Scriptures, but I doubt that any ever went to church except for weddings and funerals, nor among the over-stuffed rooms (we see countless boxes and crates of expensive items that the acquisitive wife has seen advertised on TV and ordered) would we ever find a Bible.
Serge Dumontet (Jacques Weber) is the patriarch afflicted with a weak heart whom the women in his life can scarcely wait to kick the bucket. Louise (Dominique Blanc) is constantly ordering over the phone items over the phone but then never uses them, leaving them in their boxes and wrapping stashed along the walls of the large living room. Daughter George (Doria Tillier), beautiful but ruthless, has taken charge of his many businesses due to his sick heart. She is eager to take full charge when he finally succumbs to his heart trouble. Granddaughter Jeanne Patterson (Céleste Brunnquell) seems to be a mere observer, taking dozens of photos with the camera always in her hands—but given her family, what might she be thinking and hoping for when the old man dies. All three women in one scene sit calmly on the couch when the old man collapses from one of his attacks, not a one lifting a finger to aid him. Rounding out the charming household is Agnes (Véronique Ruggia), cook and housekeeper, who, it turns out, has been sealing the gifts she thinks Louise will not notice or miss, using or selling them for her personal gain.
Into this den of dangerous snakes enters the lovely woman (Laure Calamy) claiming to be the daughter Stephane Serge has sired by one of the many mistresses he has bedded through the years. Before she shows up at the island estate. all we know about Stephane is that she is an ex-convict in desperate financial need. She has a dead-end job of working in an anchovy-packing plant, has been put out of her lodgings by her landlady, and is in a lesbian relationship with a woman whom she visits at the prison in Toulon. One night she calls Serge on the telephone, whereupon he invites her to visit him.
The newcomer gets along well with the old man, but George, sensing that she is a threat seeking a portion of the inheritance is cold toward her. Stephane assures them and Serge that she is not seeking any part of the family fortune. She just wants to reconnect with her father. When Serge falls unconscious during his heart attack, she is the only one who tries to help him. The young woman refuses to show ID, and when the family assumes that she owns the anchovy factory, Stephane does not contradict them—at that point we begin to wonder about this likeable character. As she is leaving the island, George tells her, “Do not come back.”
But of course, she does go back, with dire consequences for all. The well-written plot has several surprises in store for us, with virtually no one turning out to be who she (and he) appears to be. The picture of the Dumontet family corresponds well to the Scriptures above, each member spinning her own web of evil. And true to the third passage, the plan of one of them turns into a snare. The Dumontets could be the poster family of the 1% derided by the Occupy Wall Street protestors a few years ago.
The talent of French actress Laure Calamy is on full display here, her character being central to the plot and capturing our attention and sympathy as the one seemingly caring person among a group who have long ago sold their souls to Mammon. It could serve to bolster the views of people of faith concerned with the soul-killing values of society, and so I recommend it for film discussion groups.
This review will be in the Oct. issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.