BFI LFF: The Racer and the Jailbird (Le Fidèle) (2017)

Michaël R. Roskam’s The Racer and the Jailbird stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Matthias Schoenaerts in an intense, high-speed love affair.

Hi Speed Love

by Alexa Dalby

The Racer and the Jailbird

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The Racer and the Jailbird isn’t well served by its English title. Its French title translates as ‘the faithful man’, which better encapsulates its dramatic story of an obsessive love affair. Bibi (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is indeed, however unlikely, a racing car driver. At a celebratory event, she’s introduced by her brother to Gigi (Matthias Schoenaerts), a dashingly exciting, handsome man who describes himself as being in import/export. Their high-octane love affair kicks off instantly. But Bibi at first is innocently unaware that his absences on ‘business trips’ are in fact when he’s robbing banks with his gang of other ex-juvenile offender friends. Even when she suspects the truth, their love burns stronger. But when Gigi carries out one last job, the third act of the film takes the two lovers into unexpected and tragic areas that seem almost like a different sort of film altogether. Its spectacular fast-revving plot is suddenly wrenched into a seemingly endless lower, more serious and more tragic gear. However, Exarchopoulos and Schoenaerts give drivingly intense performances with urgent on-screen chemistry that carry through to the film’s overdue end.

The Racer and the Jailbird screens at the 61st BFI London Film Festival on 4, 5 and 7 October 2017.

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