Opening September 3, 2020
Directed by: Nicolas Boukhrief
Writing credits: Pierre Lemaitre
Principal actors: Sandrine Bonnaire, Pablo Pauly, Jérémy Senez, Margot Bancilhon
Twelve-year-old Antoine Courtin (Jérémy Senez) lives with his single-mother Blanche (Sandrine Bonnaire) in Ollay, a small village in Belgium. Across the street is the Desmedt family: father Charles, mother Jeanne, 12-year-old Émilie (Margot Bancilhon) and six-year-old Rémi (Léo Lévy). In this familiar atmosphere the children are often left to play on their own, while the adults worry that a major source of income, the local sawmill, is facing bankruptcy. On December 22, 1999, families are preparing for Christmas. The weather is mild, and the children are running around town, when suddenly the Desmedt family dog, Odysseus, is hit by a car. This sets off a worse tragedy: the next day Rémi disappears. Villagers, under the guidance of town mayor, Monsieur Mouchette, gather to organize search groups. Police question neighbors, including Antoine, who might have been the last persons to have seen Rémi.
The story develops gradually with the introduction of Docteur Dieulafoy (Philippe Torreton), the family physician, and Andrei Kowalski (Arben Bajraktaraj), Blanche’s Polish employer. There is a midnight mass on December 24, followed by a huge storm which cancels further searches for Rémi, as all must concentrate on rebuilding their own existences. But Antoine knows where Rémi is; you do, too.
I saw this film in French with German subtitles and read the book by Pierre Lemaitre in English. I suggest that you see the film before reading the book. Imagining various endings, e.g., where is Antoine’s wristwatch, adds to the entertainment value. This is being billed as a “murder mystery,” but I’ll bet you have never seen or read a “Krimi” like this, “with emphasis on guilt and atonement, which were the hardest themes to adapt to the screen from a book,” according to director Nicolas Boukhrief. This was the first script he has filmed which he had not written himself. This is also the first time that Lemaitre has worked one of his own novels into a screenplay. Boukhrief and Lemaitre changed small details from the original book, possibly to scale down the story into 119 mesmerizing minutes for the screen. Do not miss this film, which is so exceptional in many ways, beginning with Jérémy Senze, who plays young Antoine. There is also an “old” Antoine played by Pablo Pauly. See: I am already revealing too much.)