Silence in court is deafening in the elliptical French crime drama The Girl with a Bracelet. By the time we get there, director Stéphane Demoustier has put his hands over our ears already, in a scene of a family day out, idyllic on a golden beach. Idyllic at least until the police arrive. With the camera at a distance, we can’t make out what is being said. We just see the officers lead away the family’s teenage daughter.
Two years later the same girl, Lise (Melissa Guers), is 18 and still living with her parents in smart provincial townhouse. She is bored, dating an inappropriate local boy, her younger brother hankering after her room if she ends up leaving home. Again, the scene would feel pointedly humdrum were it not for the bracelet of the title — an electronic tag around Lise’s ankle. Her room, we learn, may not go spare with a job or university, but after her pending trial for the bloody murder of a friend.
A courtroom drama, then — but far removed from gavellers of old, with their surprise witnesses and rousing closing speeches. Ambiguity reigns in this boldly unnerving portrait of a young woman herself painted by prosecutors as a touch too dispassionate. Demoustier is good at genre, but his real interest lies in how we, the audience, see Lise, a human Rorschach test declining grand shows of emotion in the dock. The result sticks in the head for days.
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