Louis Garrel, the grandson of the late and wonderful Maurice Garrel, has made a name for himself as an accomplished actor with countless great films to his credit, including Little Women, which comes to recent memory. However, Garrel has also shown a talent for directing, with a couple of very likable films already on his plate. He transitions into the director’s chair once again with The Innocent, in which he is not only directing but also starring in and co-writing with co-writers Tanguy Viel and Naïla Guiguet.
This is a film that never really takes itself too seriously but oftentimes falters with its corny romantic subplot between Abel’s (Garrel) mother Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg) and her love interest Michel (Roschdy Zem). Sylvie is a vivacious middle-aged woman who imparts her theater directing skills to inmates in a prison near Paris. However, when her heart is captured by Michel, a highly skilled student with a criminal past. His theatrical talent is overshadowed only by his capability to deceive. It never occurred to her that he might be lying. Despite the suspicion of her son, Sylvie continues with the relationship and eventually supports the newlyweds when Michel is granted parole. They venture into a joint business endeavor by opening a flower shop.
The film fails to thoroughly explore Abel’s relationship with his mother, as the script appears to disregard his attachment to her and his desperate attempts to fit into her private life, even if it means overstepping boundaries. Moreover, you can’t help but feel it lacks some kind of suspense, as the script swiftly reveals within the first thirty minutes that Michel has returned to a life of crime without building up any mystery or anticipation. This represents a missed opportunity for the script, and regrettably, it leaves a rushed impression on the viewer. Abel, who is employed as a tour guide at an aquarium alongside his best friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant), also a friend of his late wife, is complemented by her endearing quirkiness that adds something special to the film’s charm.
Abel and Clémence’s humorous escapades in attempting to spy on Michel offer a pleasant and charming distraction, even if they do not necessarily induce uncontrollable laughter. Though they do offer moments of physical comedy that are likely to elicit a smile or two, the film’s humor occasionally fails to hit the mark, leaving viewers with a sense that more daring risks could have been taken to amplify the script’s levity. Nonetheless, The Innocent remains a lighthearted and enjoyable experience, thanks in part to the endearing performances of its cast and the overall charming direction of the story.
Despite any shortcomings, Garrel deftly imbues the story with a delightful wit and captivating quality that keep the audience thoroughly engaged. The ensemble cast delivers exemplary performances, particularly Noémie Merlant, whose brilliant talent truly shines on screen. Her presence is like a breath of fresh air, infusing the film with a renewed sense of energy and charm as she executes her comedic role to perfection. Watching her onscreen is an absolute delight, and she proves to be a true standout amongst the talented cast.
While The Innocent does offer an enjoyable experience, Garrel isn’t really doing anything profound here. At times, the film feels very basic with a story that doesn’t truly captivate the viewer. The movie suffers from pacing issues, with choppy editing that occasionally detracts from the overall flow. However, these minor flaws do not significantly distract from the film’s overall enjoyability. Despite its limitations, The Innocent manages to pack a lot into its 98-minute runtime, resulting in a fun and witty ride that is sure to entertain audiences regardless. While it may not be a groundbreaking masterpiece, it still leaves you wanting to see another film or two from Garrel.
The Innocent is currently playing in select theaters courtesy of Janus Films. The film will be expanding into additional marketing in the coming weeks.
Despite its limitations, The Innocent manages to pack a lot into its 98-minute runtime, resulting in a fun and witty ride that is sure to entertain audiences regardless.
It all started when I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons like the Spider-Man: Animated Series and Batman. Since then I’ve been hooked to the world of pop culture. Huge movie lover from French New Wave, to the latest blockbusters, I love them all. Huge Star Wars and Marvel geek. When I’m free from typing away at my computer, you can usually catch me watching a good flick or reading the next best comic. Come geek out with me on Twitter @somedudecody.