Review by Sean Boelman
Recent discourse has resulted in criticism against “nepo babies” whose famous parents allowed them to get their career in the entertainment industry. That being said, there are some children of nepotism who are strong creatives in their own right, including Louis Garrel (son of classic French filmmaker Louis Garrel), whose newest film, The Innocent, reinforces him as a great comedic voice.
The film follows a man who attempts to foil his mother’s plan to marry a man in prison because he believes the man has ulterior motives. Of course, as one would expect, things do not go according to plan. The message of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is obvious, but this story explores it in a compelling way.
Of course, there is a feeling of absurdity to the story, and that lends itself to a mostly comedic tone. The protagonist gets up to various hijinks hoping to foil his mother’s romance — a premise we have seen done in several slapstick comedies before — but Garrel brings a refreshing edge to it that allows the movie to stand out.
There are so many twists in the film, particularly during the third act, that it ends up feeling somewhat convoluted. Still, even if it is hard to follow exactly what is happening in the story, viewers will enjoy going along for the wild ride. The story frequently feels frenzied, but it thrives in this chaos.
One of the things that Garrel does best in his movies is give the audience slightly annoying characters and make them charming. This is certainly the case here, as the protagonist’s stubbornness through much of the first two acts is frustrating, but it leads to an enormously compelling redemption arc in the home stretch.
Garrel has also assembled a strong supporting cast for the film. Noémie Merlant gives an unusually comedic performance in her supporting role. She’s usually a lot flashier than she is here, but she’s still quite charming. Roschdy Zem is fantastic as the protagonist’s foil, and Anouk Grinberg has a great role as the protagonist’s mother.
From a technical level, the movie leaves a bit to be desired. The cinematography is washed out and feels somewhat uninspired, and the editing is somewhat sluggish — especially considering that this is essentially a heist film. Still, the script does a lot of heavy lifting and has so much narrative momentum that it’s undeniable.
The Innocent is an extremely fun romantic comedy with a sharp script and some very strong performances. Although its convoluted narrative makes it a bit hard to follow at times, its tone is so enjoyable that it still works.
The Innocent is now playing in theaters.