The Girl with a Bracelet

 

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A pleasingly competent drama from France that keeps its audience intrigued.

 
Girl with a Bracelet

Melissa Guers

  

Courtroom dramas can be thought of as a sub-genre in cinema often - but certainly not always - associated with thrillers. 1957's 12 Angry Men is still regularly cited as a prime example, and it is proof that such works can be vehicles that comment effectively on issues surrounding justice and prejudice. Indeed, films in this category can be as serious as Judgment in Nuremberg (1961) which covered the post-war trial of Nazi war criminals or as splendidly entertaining as Billy Wilder's take on Agatha Christie, Witness for the Prosecution (also 1957). However, most pieces of this kind that play in our cinemas tend to be English language works and that makes Stéphane Demoustier's The Girl with a Bracelet a rare example of a court drama that reaches us from France.

 

A splendidly handled opening scene plays without audible dialogue as we observe a family enjoying an outing to the beach. The group consists of Bruno and Céline Bataille (Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni) and their children, 17-year-old Lise (Melissa Guers) and 8-year-old Jules (Paul Aïssaoui-Cuvelier), and what we see is the dramatic arrival of police officers who take Lise into custody. We may not know any of the circumstances but we are fully gripped and indeed intrigued by what we see in this pre-credit sequence which leads straight into the main narrative which takes place two years later.

 

We quickly realise that Lise is awaiting trial (it is a neat touch that the bracelet of the title turns out to be not a trinket but an electronic bracelet that she is required to wear having been allowed to continue to live at home pending the hearing). A serious crime has been committed, but it is a while before we learn what it was and why Lise has been charged. The less said here about the plot the better since the film should be left to make its own revelations and to raise its own questions. Once the court proceedings begin they take a central role, but the film is also about family life and the way in which parents may not altogether know their own children. What emerges in court includes sexual subject matter (to that extent the film of which I was most reminded was Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder of 1959) but what really counts here, aside from the family portrait, comprises two elements. We are held by the revelations as to what really happened which come out in stages and we are increasingly caught up by the question of whether or not Lise is guilty as charged.

 

On its own terms, The Girl with a Bracelet works well. It avoids becoming over-melodramatic and it is well played (Mastroianni's role, not quite as subsidiary as her billing might suggest, makes an admirable contrast to her more showy part in the recent On a Magical Night). This is not a film that will end up on any list of cinema's best courtroom dramas, but it is a thoroughly professional piece that should satisfy its audience.

 

Original title: La fille au bracelet.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Roschdy Zem, Melissa Guers, Chiara Mastroianni, Anaïs Demoustier, Annie Mercier, Victoria Jadot, Pascal Garbarini, Paul Aïssaoui-Cuvelier, Anne Paulicevich, Mikaël Halimi, Léo Moreau.

 

Dir Stéphane Demoustier, Pro Jean des Forêts, Screenplay Stephane Démoustier, based on the script of Acusada by Ulises Porra and Gonzalo Tobal, Ph Sylvain Verdet, Art Dir Catherine Cosme, Ed Damien Maestraggi, Music Carla Pallone, Costumes Anne-Sophie Gledhill.

 

Petit Film/France 3 Cinéma/ Frakas Productions/Rei Cine/Canal+/Ciné+-Curzon Artificial Eye.
95 mins. France/Belgium. 2019. Rel: 26 June 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. No Cert.