Saturday, June 22, 2024

“MISÉRICORDE”

THE STORY – Jérémie returns to his hometown of Saint-Martial to attend his former boss’s funeral. He stays for a few days with the widow Martine. His presence angers her son Vincent. This causes a fight between the two men, which ends with Jérémie killing Vincent. He manages to conceal his crime with the unexpected help of the village priest, who provides him with an alibi in exchange for his affection.

THE CAST – Félix Kysyl, Jacques Develay, Catherine Frot, David Ayala & Jean-Baptiste Durand

THE TEAM – Alain Guiraudie (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 102 Minutes


The specter of secrecy has always been a fascinating backdrop that can reveal engaging elements within a story. The potential is limitless in terms of what can unfold in the pursuit of this knowledge. A sense of danger is ever-present, yet the urge to disassemble the mystery and shine a light onto this hidden facet creates an invigorating journey. Once those answers have finally been sought, what is divulged can be just as enlightening. This information can inform so much, not only on thematic commentary but also the tone, speaking to whether or not such a situation speaks to a deadly serious circumstance or a more humorous happenstance. All possibilities are present within “Misericorde,” a stark examination that mostly finds ways to be enthralling.

The film opens in a small French town where Jérémie (Félix Kysyl) has just arrived to attend the funeral of his former boss from when he worked in a bakery. While visiting, he reconnects with the family he had previously bonded with many years ago. The man’s widow, Martine (Catherine Frot), welcomes him with open arms and extends the invitation to stay at her home. Her son, Vincent (Jean-Baptise Durand), is minorly friendly at first but quickly turns more antagonistic. He’s suspicious of Jérémie’s intentions, convinced he has returned to seduce his mother and claim ownership of his father’s bakery. However, Jérémie’s quest involves a wider range of desires, which include an attempt to pursue a romantic affair with another resident (David Ayala) and crossing paths with the overly affectionate priest (Jacques Develay). A turn of events soon finds him in a tense situation, where criminality and catharsis will force him to confront his true motivations.

Alain Guiraudie has shown a propensity for crafting somber worlds full of perilous intrigue. His gay horror-thriller, “Stranger by the Lake,” captures the aura of perpetual menace within a contemplative mood that is often beguiling. There’s a similar template being produced here again, with a meditative pace that slowly descends into this complicated web of twisted appetites. Like some of his previous efforts, the sense of momentum can feel stalled and frustration can form with a narrative that takes too long to get going. The landscapes as shot by Claire Mathon have their own simplistic majesty to them that helps to convey this tranquil environment with an unsettling atmosphere. It does a great deal to compensate for the lethargic pacing that can be an impediment in regards to connecting more with the story.

Still, Guiraudie does manage to showcase a captivating dynamic between these characters. The interplay with all of them has an engrossing quality. One is always kept guessing as to how strong the allegiances are between any group of individuals, and as the plot progresses, it makes for even more compelling storytelling. The tragic aspects of this tale have realistic depictions, nothing that feels stylized in a way to distract from the true horror that is quietly being unraveled. At the same time, the material fully embraces its darkly comedic sensibilities and successfully fuses that spirit with the more dramatic sections. After a terrible crime is committed, mushrooms begin to grow at the scene of the offense, not only giving a recurrent moment of tension but an amusing observation in its depiction. This dichotomy is most felt with the priest, a strange mixture of ominous skepticism and warm affection that creates an unusual persona that’s quite alluring. The balance of these contrasting attitudes is what makes this piece more absorbing.

Kysyl embodies Jérémie with a transfixing quality that is never overplayed and effectively exhibits the cryptic personality that is navigating these waters. He plays a protagonist that one can never fully trust but manifests a deep empathy – a wonderful quality to maintain in this land of inscrutable emotions. It’s not a performance that ever goes for grandiose gestures, as not many of the portrayals here do, but he does deliver a complex portrait that is enticing in every scene. Second to him, the most impactful turn is from Develay, who gives this man of the church a quirky nature whose deadpan deliveries never feel out of touch with the gravity of any situation. He can be incredibly funny without ever losing the seriousness of the story, which is very endearing. There is a sinister vibe that Durand brings that is efficient, and Frot also establishes a caring presentation that fits well within the role. They don’t make the same impression as Kysyl or Develay but are appreciated all the same.

There are several points within “Miséricorde” where one wishes for a narrative that had a stronger determination to examine these characters with a little more forceful momentum. The stagnant pacing will often slow down the overall engagement, which can also contribute to some lackluster characterization. What is noteworthy is how the filmmaking does a credible job of establishing a disturbing setting that slowly acknowledges the riveting relationships on display. With a host of intriguing performances to witness, the film chooses to divulge its premise in a manner that may be inconsistently stimulating but still provocative at its core.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Has an unsettling aura that is effectively conveyed through the pensive filmmaking. The narrative has an intriguing mystery that is revealed in a captivating manner. The performances from Félix Kysyl and Jacques Develay capture an engaging tone.

THE BAD - The pacing can get very lethargic which stalls a lot of the momentum in the storytelling. Some of the other characters aren’t as impactful.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Has an unsettling aura that is effectively conveyed through the pensive filmmaking. The narrative has an intriguing mystery that is revealed in a captivating manner. The performances from Félix Kysyl and Jacques Develay capture an engaging tone.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The pacing can get very lethargic which stalls a lot of the momentum in the storytelling. Some of the other characters aren’t as impactful.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"MISÉRICORDE"