|Niels Arestrup, Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim in 'Our Children'|
Often in mainstream
cinema there are instances of grave horror that are mentioned but never
explained. Joachim Lafosse’s film Our Children (French: À perdre la raison) is
inspired by one such case of Genevieve Lhermitte, who turned herself to the
police after coldly and clinically murdering her five kids with a kitchen knife.
Co-written with Thomas Bidegain and Matthieu Reynaert, the script does the
difficult work of leading the audience to the end of the road for a woman who
does the unspeakable. And it does so with the coolness of an outsider, an
invisible entity allowing us a glimpse into the perfect seeming world of Murielle (Emilie Dequenne) and letting
the cracks appear slowly.
There are many films
made on real life instances, but ‘Our Children’ diverts away from the very obvious
crime and instead looks at the whole episode as it is stretches over a number
of years. In the film, a Belgian schoolteacher, Murielle (Dequenne), and
Moroccan immigrant, Mounir (Tahar Rahim), fall in love and decide to marry. Mounir’s
surrogate father, Doctor Pinget (Niels Arestrup) offers them to stay at his
place and also an assistant’s job to Mounir. After the marriage Murielle learns
that Pinget had not only adopted Mounir but also married Mounir’s sister for
While Pinget’s actions
can be termed as humanitarian, but here the extent of charity also leads to the
burden of guilt. And with four children and an indebted husband, this guilt
proves to be crippling for Murielle. The omnipresent Pinget and his control over
the house, the finances, Mounir and thus also Murielle’s life is what creates an
undeniable tension on screen.
Both Niels Arestrup and
Tahar Rahim play their parts well too, creating a confined environment in the
house and its inhabitants. While Arestrup has an aura of obtrusive masculinity,
also reflecting from his actions, Rahim’s Mounir is the textbook case whose can
only control Murielle to compensate for his lack of power everywhere else.
But the one performance
that holds this film together is that of Emilie Dequenne. She portrays Murielle
with a slow steady precision, with every scene building suffocation not just on
her face but also in the mind of the viewer. From a free-spirited schoolteacher,
to a tired mother of four and finally a murdered, we see Dequenne depicting Murielle
with acute realism. The fatigue of school and housework shows on her face, the depression
build up with every child-birth and the lack of intimacy and freedom, in the
most gentle of manners goes on to push her one step closer to the end. The
moments that we really feel her pain are the ones Murielle spends with Mounir’s
Arabic speaking mother, because it is in those scenes that we see her
depression fading away. In that time the difference between real affection and
charity becomes crystal clear.
Joachim Lafosse’s film,
despite its strong content is not testing on the eyes. Mostly limited to the
happenings of everyday life, it instead creates a drama, where instances build
up in our mind slowly, like the lull before a storm. And when the storm does
come, it happens like an inevitability which you cannot quite believe and yet
know was going to happen at the back of your mind.
Labels: Check it out, CRITIC'S PICKS, Drama, French