Simultaneously detective comedy, heist film, sentimental and family drama, L’innocent, Louis Garrel’s fourth feature film as a filmmaker, is a real success. Inspired by a real episode in the life of his own mother, director and actress Brigitte Sy, the one who grew up in a family of cinema also pays, through the tape, a vibrant tribute to the profession of actor.
It starts with a scene where we see actors rehearsing. We quickly discover that the latter are, in fact, inmates who, within the framework of the prison environment, participate in play workshops led by Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg). This very young sexagenarian, captivated by the charm of one of them, whose prison sentence is coming to an end, will fall in love to the point of thinking about marriage even inside the prison walls, especially more than she is quite certain of the sincerity of the feelings that Michel (Roschdy Zem) has for her.
From this story, the starting point of which is true (Brigitte Sy has already made a film of it – Free Hands – with, as alter ego, the late Ronit Elkabetz), Louis Garrel draws a story that is both touching and completely wacky. The latter slips himself – brilliantly – into the skin of Abel, this son who, from the moment he learns that his mother is in love with an inmate, doubts the true aims of the lucky chosen one. Fearing the worst, Abel will do everything to protect his mother from this man, whom he will shadow, wishing to catch him in the wrong.
Accumulating the clumsiness of someone who has never had experience of this kind of thing (which gives rise to some really very funny scenes), Abel is accompanied in his quest by his best friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant, whose performance won her the César for Best Supporting Actress). The two accomplices will also have something to eat since, in fact, Michel must discreetly participate in a robbery…
Louis Garrel, whose previous feature films were written either with Christophe Honoré (The Two Friends) or with his mentor Jean-Claude Carriere (The Faithful Man, The Crusade), this time called on the novelist Tanguy Viel (Insoupçonnable) . Crossed by elements of frank comedy, the screenplay, awarded a César, focuses first on the evolutionary look that Abel poses on Michel, but it also explores the nature of the unfailing feelings binding a mother to her son.
Flamboyant and moving, it is to her that we also owe the tone of a film that honors the art of variety. In this regard, fans of nostalgia radio will be pampered by a musical score featuring Pour le Plaisir (Herbert Léonard) and Nuit Magique (Catherine Lara), including Gérard Blanc (Another Story) and popular Italian songs. Noémie Merlant also displays a consummate gift for comedy and the tandem she forms with Louis Garrel on screen works wonderfully.
Rediscovering a bit of the spirit of a cinema of the past (which the poster graphically evokes), L’innocent is the fruit of a truly beautiful mix of genres from which no one could have predicted such a beautiful result. Call it movie magic.