In their seventh cinematic collaboration, French director Andre Techine and French leading lady extraordinaire Catherine Deneuve have once again created a memorable film with In the Name of My Daughter, opening on Friday, May 29th, at Indy's Landmark Keystone Art Cinema as part of the film's limited nationwide run with indie distributor Cohen Media Group.
Based on a true French court case, In the Name of My Daughter is set in the 1970s and starts off with Agnes (Adele Haenel) returning to Nice following a divorce hopeful that her mother, Renee (Deneuve), will allow her to collect on money left her by her father. Unfortunately for Agnes, the casino that her mother has been running is hurting financially, a fact that the casino's lawyer, Maurice (Guillaume Canet), is said to be trying to address.
With these three characters, Techine crafts together a thriller that defies the usual Americanized sense of what it means to be a thriller. In fact, In the Name of My Daughter is rather light on the actual thrills. Instead, it is a wisely underplayed and intelligent thriller that pits person against person in ways that feel authentic because they are, for the most part, quite authentic.
Agnes, a rather naive young woman, will fall in love with Maurice, who is ten years her senior and quite the philanderer. She will eventually decide to sell her shares of the casino in favor of going it alone, while the casino's security is increasingly at risk and there is someone who is trying to intimidate Renee. Fratoni (Jean Corso) is a rival casino owner who longs to take over the Palais de la Mediterranee and he will succeed in offering Agnes 3 million Francs to vote against her mother at the shareholder meeting. Maurice grows increasingly distant, while Agnes struggles to cope with her betrayal and a suicide attempt is followed by her disappearance. Thirty years later, Maurice will remain the prime suspect and Renee vows to continue searching for the answer.
For those who've appreciated Techine's earlier works, In the Name of My Daughter is neither his best nor his worst film to date. As one nearly always expects, Deneuve elevates the proceedings with a performance that is iconic in nature and presentation. Haenel, a growing presence in French cinema, gives the film an energy and emotion that it lacks in its latter scenes. Canet is tremendous in providing shades of an ultimately suspicious and mysterious character.
In the Name of My Daughter was nominated for two Lumiere Awards, Best Actress (Haenel) and Best Actor (Canet). The film would have been infinitely better with a stronger final 20 minutes as the film's closing scene, in addition to feeling rather pointless for anyone who knows the history of the case, mutes the impact of everything that has preceded it.
That said, In the Name of My Daughter remains worth it if only to watch the power of a talented cast bringing to life a familiar yet compelling story.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic