The Innocent (L’Innocent), Louis Garrel’s fourth film, is a César-winning caper with a French accent.
Who, me?by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
The Innocent is many (too many?) things in one film – double romcom, drama, comedy, thriller and a crime caper. No matter which, the film is fun and fast-moving entertainment.
Sylvie (glamorous Anouk Grinberg) is an impetuous former actress who now teaches drama in a prison, where her star actor is charismatic, charming armed robber Michel (Roschdy Zem, Omar Killed Me). He soon becomes her adored husband (her third in ten years) on his imminent release. Michel is an ambiguous figure who seems almost too good to be true. Is he?
Sylvie’s protective adult son Abel (French heart-throb Louis Garrel, The Dreamers, who also co-wrote and directed) is sceptical that his new step-father is a reformed character who just wants a quiet life running, with Sylvie, the flower shop he’s been given. (In contrast to the rest of the film, the shop is a burst of candy colours.) Rather, Abel suspects Michel of planning another heist and is determined to prove it.
Abel is a mild-mannered education officer, who gives tours of an aquarium to school children. His colleague and best friend is vibrant Clémence (Noémie Merlant from Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Tár).
This being France, the unusual heist involves a truckload of caviar but it goes comically in an unplanned direction. It’s almost as if the whole film was a pretext for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual joke of hiding the caviar.
Underlying the plot of The Innocent are questions of performance versus reality, who is really the innocent of the title and how acting can – even if only accidentally – reveal the truth.
Earlier this year The Innocent won César Academy awards (French Oscars) for Merland (supporting actress) and for original screenplay.
The Innocent premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is released on 25 August 2023 in the UK.