|Julie Depardieu gives a strong performance.|
Le Passager, directed by and starring Eric Caravaca, follows in the long line of recent French films dealing with mourning and loss. In this one, a man (played by Caravaca) returns to the Marseille area of his childhood to identify his brother’s body, revisiting places and people he once knew and, without revealing his identity, retracing the life and loves of his brother, with whom he had long since lost all contact.
The film has much to recommend it. It is beautifully composed, with memorable panoramic shots and close-ups of the main characters, and the acting is uniformly excellent. Caravaca, wonderfully understated, portrays loss and secrecy with a quiet dignity. Julie Depardieu shows both strength and vulnerability in equal measure. And Vincent Rottiers follows up his excellent role in Mon Ange with a performance of similar intensity; this is a young actor who will go very far.
Le Passager as a whole lacks both identity and plausibility, however. As beautifully filmed as the individual scenes are, the overall product feels more like a collage of different parts inspired by other directors; the influence of André Téchiné, Patrice Chéreau and François Ozon, among others, is palpable.
Nathalie Richard is woefully underused in a role that is supposedly crucial but lapses into clichés about what happens to a woman with a difficult past. Moreover, no convincing reason is given for the central character’s decision not to reveal his identity.
The mystery and secrecy that permeate the film and maintain tension and interest throughout turn out to be its ultimate weakness. Too much is left unsaid. Even one of the pivotal final scenes, in which a flashback reveals shocking facts about the brothers’ past, poses more questions than it answers.
Eric Caravaca could well continue to make excellent films, but in Le Passager he has yet to find his true directorial voice.
© 2006 Paris Update
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