Review by Sean Boelman
The Five Devils is the type of movie where it is easy to see the directorial vision on the screen, even if it’s obvious that it was a little thin on the page. There is no denying the visual prowess of The Five Devils, cementing Léa Mysius as a director to watch, but the narrative certainly leaves something to be desired.
The film follows a young girl with seemingly magical powers whose calm life is thrown into disarray when her aunt is released from prison and comes to stay with her and her parents. As Léa Mysius’s sophomore feature, The Five Devils is an ambitious swing-and-a-miss, failing to live up to its potential.
The bigger draw of the movie is likely to be its fantasy elements, which are frustratingly ambiguous. It’s an interesting concept, but Mysius seems so unwilling to adhere to genre conventions that the film instead ends up feeling grossly underdeveloped and a shell of what it could have been.
That being said, the character elements don’t fare much better. The dynamic between the three characters — the child, her mother, and her aunt — is intriguing and shows a lot of promise, but ends up falling into a lot of melodramatic trappings. The issue is less with how the characters are written, and more with how the conflict is written.
That being said, the movie does boast some pretty consistently good performances. Although the role is a bit suspect — coming dangerously close to white savior-adjacent territory — Adèle Exarchopoulos is quite good here, as always. The real star of the show, though, is young actress Sally Dramé, whose performance is quiet and nuanced.
The visual style is also quite impressive. Paul Guilhaume (who co-wrote the screenplay with Mysius) is the cinematographer of the film, and he has a keen eye for framing and lighting. The result is images that are transfixing — at times even hypnotic — creating a great atmosphere, even when the script isn’t able to maintain its tension.
Indeed, even though the movie is quite visually alluring, the narrative is so sleepy and meandering that it will lose many viewers’ interest nonetheless. It’s the type of film that requires patience from the viewer, but it fails to realize the key factor in audiences accepting a slow burn: it has to earn that pacing.
Ultimately, The Five Devils is the type of movie that offers some pretty undeniably great vibes, but from a narrative standpoint, it’s disappointingly hollow. Léa Mysius directs the absolute hell out of a script that may leave viewers feeling more confused and unfulfilled than satisfied.
The Five Devils is now playing in theaters.