An investigator from the Grenoble judicial police is haunted by the sordid murder of a young girl. Although the interrogations are linked, as well as the suspects, the absence of evidence means that the case always returns to square one. The only certainty lies in the fact that the crime took place on the night of 12…

Even before a single image appears, we are warned that the case that we are about to echo in La nuit du 12 will not be solved. By bringing to the screen one of the stories contained in 18.3: a year at the PJ, a book in which the author Pauline Guéna recounted her observations after spending an entire year with investigators from the judicial police, Dominik Moll was bold. The one who has already offered us Harry, a friend who wishes you well and Only the Beasts warns the spectator from the outset that his new film will be held as close as possible to reality, without carrying with it all the imagination that one usually associates with the crime drama genre. This time, we will never know who committed the crime. Nor why.

The night of the 12 is no less exciting for all that. The screenplay, which Moll wrote with Gilles Marchand, his lifelong accomplice, focuses on describing how a case that turns out to be unsolvable can affect investigators in charge of collecting evidence. Along the way, the story not only addresses the frustrations that can undermine individuals from within, but also, more broadly, very contemporary themes.

With the murder being a feminicide (a young woman was set on fire on her way home from a party), questions arise about violence against women, as well as their fate within of a justice system predominantly made up of men. Moll does not take a militant and denunciatory approach here, but he nevertheless exposes this inescapable reality in the treatment of an investigation. In this case, we inevitably add a moral aspect to the case by trying to find out what the victim’s way of life was, especially on the sentimental and sexual level.

With constant rigor, Dominik Moll keeps his story under tension — although the outcome is known from the start — yet takes a very stripped-down approach, devoid of any dramatic effect. When a policeman freezes in front of the mother of the victim, to whom he must announce the tragedy, we reach here shocking accents of truth with, however, a great economy of means. All the actors deliver excellent performances, including Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners and Anouk Grinberg. In the role of an investigating judge collecting the confidences of the investigator, the latter is remarkable.

Winner of seven César trophies, including those awarded for best film and best direction, La nuit du 12, launched at the Cannes Film Festival last year, is now in theaters in Quebec.