A Daringly Cryptic Murder Mystery
By Peter Bradshaw
There’s a cool, forensic reserve to this French movie, mimicking the legalistic procedure that makes up most of the running time. It is a remake of The Accused, a 2018 film from Argentinian director Gonzalo Tobal about a teenage girl on trial for murdering her best friend, allegedly as revenge for putting a sexually explicit video of her online. Guilty or not guilty?
The original was relatively brash, with much emphasis on the surrounding media circus and a cameo from Gael García Bernal as a TV interviewer. This new version from writer-director Stéphane Demoustier, adapting Ulises Porra’s original script, boils it down to the courtroom drama, with some external scenes showing the defendant’s family life.
Newcomer Melissa Guers is intriguing as 18-year-old Lise, who discomfits her defending counsel with her ambiguous blankness and habit of relapsing into self-incriminating silences on the stand. Roschdy Zem is her careworn father and Chiara Mastroianni her stressed mother, who at first can’t even be persuaded to attend the trial and has all but given up on her daughter. Both are wrestling with the awful suspicion that she might actually have done it. But circumstantial evidence is all the prosecution have, and no murder weapon.
Anyone hoping for a sudden twist or surprise witness are going to be disappointed, yet there is a development. Enigma is the keynote here and, fascinatingly, the ghost of an alternative explanation – maybe the ghost of a ghost – appears almost invisibly, before vanishing. What should we make of it? Should we notice it? Or it just the muddying of the waters that happens in real courtroom trials?
Viewers may be split on the question of exactly how satisfying it all is in the end. The performances are strong.