The Innocent

Directed by: Louis Garrel
Distributed by: Janus Films

Written by Michael Clawson

Aquarium tour guide Abel isn’t too sure about his widowed mother’s new boyfriend. Recently released from the prison where Abel’s mother teaches theater, the handsome Michel presents as charming and gracious, but Abel fears that Michel’s life of crime isn’t fully behind him. In this Paris-set caper-comedy from Louis Garrel, a son’s loving concern for his mother turns him into a bumbling sleuth, as Abel clumsily sneaks around town trying to uncover the secrets he suspects Michel is hiding.

It’s more because of dumb luck than clever detective work that Abel discovers he’s actually right. To pay for the space where he plans to open a flower shop with Abel’s mother, Michel is conspiring with an old partner to intercept a shipment of caviar and sell the delicacy to an end-buyer themselves. When Michel offers Abel a role in the heist in exchange for a cut of the proceeds, Abel accepts, committing himself and his close friend/co-conspirator Clémence to a zany criminal escapade.

Citing the films of Italian directors Dino Risi and Mario Monicello as his inspiration, Garrel, who also stars as Abel, directs “The Innocent” with an agreeable amount of style, using fluid zooms, split screens, and splashes of color to enlivening effect. The formal playfulness compensates for some plot contrivance and a few too many predictable story beats, while the cast members, including Noémie Merlant as Clemence, Roschdy Zem as Michel, and Anouk Grinberg as Abel’s mother, are all delightfully keyed into Garrel’s madcap-crime-movie energy. Even when the actions of their love-driven characters strain credibility, these actors are a pleasure to watch.

“The Innocent” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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