The Innocent

  • 09 Sep - 15 Sep, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

This heist comedy has a distinct French aesthetic, is loaded with romance and tragedy while still being eager to amuse. Abel, an aquarium tour guide who is a little adrift in life after losing his wife, is played by co-writer and director Louis Garrel, who also happens to be from a well-known French cinema family (his father is Nouvelle Vague director Philippe Garrel and his mother is actor Brigitte Sy).

The individuals in Abel's life are the complete opposite of depressed and self-absorbed: his coworker and friend, and perhaps more? Clémence (Noémie Merlant) is vivacious and impulsive, and his mother Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg), a drama instructor who teaches acting classes in prison, is discovering a new zest for life as she reaches middle age. She starts dating one of her students, Roshdy Zem, while she's imprisoned, and they later decide to get married, much to Abel's dismay.

Sure enough, Abel's new stepdad hasn't quite separated the words "con" and "ex-con," and the four of them wind up getting involved in a high-profile heist (taking caviar; after all, this is a French movie). Even though the major subplot she is given – a budding romance between Abel and Clémence – seems a little too overused, it's entertaining to see Noémie Merlant in a lighter role than she typically finds herself.

The last act is fairly tense as things escalate quickly and there are some nutty soundtrack choices (aquarium rumpy-pumpy, anyone?). It is nicely shot and has some easily fantastic compositions and soundtrack choices. The Innocent, which is caught between Hollywood clichés and European sensibilities, works best when it takes unexpected turns; otherwise, it could seem like a shaggy dog story.

A very French sort of frippery: the kind of caper that doesn’t really linger, but is perfectly entertaining while it’s there.