In the Name of My Daughter
Despite getting lead
billing in this film (her seventh collaboration with writer/director André
Téchiné) and the role of the real life woman who wrote the book that In
the Name of My Daughter (L'homme qu'on aimait trop) was based upon,
legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve actually has a supporting role.
And yet her regal presence suffuses this film – a film where co-stars
Guillaume Canet and Adèle Haenel also turn in excellent performances – so
that even when the grande dame is not on the screen, you are thinking
In the Name of
My Daughter is based upon a real life cold-case
mystery. The apparent crime took place in the 1970s and the case has been
in French courts as recently as 2014, with the current ruling on appeal.
Yet, oddly, and somewhat refreshingly, the actual crime is not the main
focus of the film, in fact the mystery and court cases 40 years later are
pretty quickly dispatched in the last half hour.
In the Name of
My Daughter is more of a character study, a look
at the relationships between a rich but estranged mother and daughter and
the slightly shady lawyer who insinuates himself into their lives.
The film is based on a
1989 book by real-life former French Riviera casino mogul Renée Le Roux (Deneuve
plays Renée) and takes place mostly in 1976. Renée is trying to take
control of the casino that her late husband had left.
As the action starts, her
daughter Agnès (Adèle Haenel) is returning home from Africa, smarting from a
recent divorce. Relations between Agnès and Renée have been strained for
years, but they do feel a deep love for each other.
Agnès has lots of plans
to be independent – getting her own apartment instead of living on her
mother's compound, opening her own store – however in order to get her life
moving forward, she needs inheritance money (approximately three million
dollars worth of francs) which is being held in trust by her mother.
Renée is in the middle of
fighting off a hostile takeover bid by a local mafioso (Jean Corso) and
needs all the cash she can have, so she is dragging her feet about giving
her daughter the money.
In the middle of this
powder keg is dropped Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), a married lawyer
who has been working for Renée and has visions of an important executive
role in her casino. Renée likes but doesn't totally trust Maurice, who
appears to be a corporate yes man, but can be ruthless at times.
Agnès and Maurice do not
get along well at first, however they eventually become friends, then when
he has a falling out with Renée he becomes Agnès' legal advisor and
eventually her lover. As Agnès falls more deeply under his spell, she
betrays her mother, becomes majorly depressive, starts stalking him,
survives a suicide attempt and eventually vanishes.
In an interesting
stylistic choice, Téchiné and Canet have decided to play Maurice as very
sketchy from the very beginning. He always feels suspicious, and the more
that you get to know him – his womanizing, his questionable business ethics,
his selfishness, his commitment-phobia, his using, his casual cruelty – it
only cements the distrust you always had towards him.
And yet the film never
completely goes so far as to say he's absolutely guilty, nor does it
speculate upon Agnès' final fate. (Which makes sense, because the real
Maurice still is insisting his innocence and appealing his eventual 2014
The final act, in which
the film flashes forward thirty-some years in search of some legal closure
actually drags a bit, ending the film on a down note. The limited
revelations it offers do not add much, though the passage of time allows
Deneuve to hit yet another fascinating note in her character.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 22,