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Stephane Demoustier The Girl with a Bracelet Review


The Girl with a Bracelet | Review

The Girl with a Bracelet | Review

Murder was the Case That They Gave Her: Demoustier Delivers a Chilly Courtroom Thriller

While it’s far from the first film to examine the popular, “how well can someone really know another person” rhetorical question, Stéphane Demoustier gets a lot of uncomfortable mileage out of such musings with his third feature The Girl with a Bracelet. Casting his sister, noted actress Anaïs Demoustier, as an unrelenting prosecutor, the result is an engrossing Gallic remake of Argentinean Gonzalo Tobal’s 2018 The Accused, which competed in the Venice Film Festival (and has yet to secure US distribution). Not unlike the lurid elements which turned the Amanda Knox trial into a global media frenzy back in 2007, a surprising amount of jealousy and sexuality lurks beneath the façade of normalcy between two teen girls which makes for gripping melodrama in an oft-acrimonious courtroom drama.

The bracelet of the title refers to the surveillance contraption Lisse (Melissa Guers) must wear around her ankle. Opening on a beach, where sixteen-year-old Lisse is taken from her family by the police in an exchange without any dialogue, the narrative skips ahead two years to her impending trial. Her best friend was found murdered and after a lengthy investigation, the police deduce Lisse is the only suspect. The past two years have found her parents (Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni) dealing with the stark situation in different ways, with her father abandoning everything to help her prepare. As the trial begins, shocking details about her relationship with her friend are divulged, and as both sides soon learn, nothing is black and white.

Demoustier’s version wisely baptizes the project with a more intriguing title (whereas Acusada will always have to be differentiated from the 1988 Jonathan Kaplan directed Jodie Foster award winner), but its barely contained courtroom hysteria recalls Henri-Georges Clouzot’s late-period classic La Verite (1960), in which the scruples of Brigitte Bardot, a young good-time gal who’s boyfriend is killed in a crime of passion, stands trial and judged vehemently for her moral character. The squabbling of Anaïs Demoustier (shackled into the limited parameters of her professional role) and Annie Mercier (who has as gruff a growl as Nicole Garcia) is comparable to the outbursts of Charles Vanel and Paul Meurisse in that 60’s classic.

As the titular girl, newcomer Melissa Guers is marvellously insolent and somewhat inscrutable, and it’s an integral performance because the audience is never quite led to believe in her innocence based on her behavior. What at first seems a rather open-and-shut case quickly segues into a lurid revenge fantasy (as painted by the prosecution) of an uncontrollable and compulsive young woman who murders her best friend after the latter posted a sex video online. Furthermore, the boy in question had an interesting relationship with both young women, both whose hedonistic fraternization casts an unavoidable pallor over everything Lisse says.

Balancing this out is yet another finely crafted performance from Roschdy Zem as her father (like Arnaud Desplechin’s police procedural, Oh Mercy! which competed in Cannes 2019, Zem conjures an effortless, captivating empathy in another role which could have easily come across as rote). Chiara Mastroianni has less to do as the somewhat absent mother, put through the wringer by the tribunal in her one notable sequence as a parent whose defense mechanisms brought her to estrange herself from the scenario as best she could. There’s a sullen turpitude which marks the brief asides with the family, who seem to be as leery of their daughter as everyone else, especially as more and more intimate details about her sexual proclivities are revealed.

The only real reprieve for Lisse is on the rides back and forth from her home to the courthouse, and Demoustier plants several contemplative moments here as she gazes out the car window, the world passing her by. The Girl with a Bracelet stands to be a notable calling card for Demoustier, whose previous features, 40-Love (2014) and Cleo & Paul both feature internationally renowned actors and grapple with children’s complicated relationships and the adults in their lives.

Reviewed on August 8th at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival – Piazza Grande. 95 Mins.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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