LAFF 2011 Review: LOVE CRIME
Writers: Alain Corneau (scenario, adaptation, dialogue), Nathalie Carter (scenario, adaptation, dialogue)
Director: Alain Corneau
Cast: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet
What does it mean to be a mentor to someone? What does it mean to have a mentor? This type of relationship can become a precarious balance with the mentor not wanting to help the person they are guiding to become more successful than themselves while the person being mentored could worry that, in becoming more successful, they appear ungrateful. LOVE CRIME explores this volatile relationship between Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) and her mentor, Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Opening on the two working late at Christine’s home, it is clear that although Christine is Isabelle’s boss, their relationship goes beyond the constraints of the office. Christine seems well-aware of the admiration Isabelle has for her and uses this knowledge to her advantage to manipulate her younger colleague for her own benefit. We are presented with the differences between the two women as we watch their evening and morning routines, the type of car they drive to where they park at work, illustrating that although each are at different points in their lives, they are not too dissimilar from one another.
It is clear that Isabelle is more than just Christine’s go-to at work, she has a natural talent and intelligence for their business that Christine will simply never possess. However, because of her affection towards Christine, Isabelle routinely allows her to take the credit for her ideas in the name of “teamwork.” This passive behavior allows Christine to continue to increase her power at the company, while Isabelle is constantly pushed into the background.
Even when Christine is denying Isabelle something, or even betraying her to her face, she does so with a smile, usually surrounding her actions with the personal attention Isabelle so craves or packaging it around the idea that she is actually helping Isabelle get ahead. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Christine with such an allure and intoxication it is not hard to understand why Isabelle is so taken with and almost blinded by Christine, despite her devious (and at times obvious) actions.
The only person who seems to notice the misbalance in this unhealthy relationship is Isabelle’s co-worker, Daniel (Guillaume Marquet), who tries to help Isabelle succeed without Christine’s knowledge to get her the recognition she deserves. But it is not until Isabelle becomes involved with someone (who she happened to meet through Christine) that we begin to see hints at her true personality and watch her start to make moves to get out from under Christine’s thumb to become her own person. Unfortunately, Christine clearly has no interest in losing her power over Isabelle in favor of Isabelle’s hopes and desires.
An unspoken war erupts between the two and, after an incident of purposeful public humiliation, one woman is pushed too far. We watch as the revenge is planned out and the crime then executed, but from that point on, things start to become confusing as we watch which character the blame is intentionally placed on. Unfortunately after this reveal the second act begins to lose its focus, giving small hints at the bigger picture, but failing to connect the dots in a timely manner, resulting in boredom rather than suspense.
The tables are turned one last time in the final act, but this time the scenes leading up to the twist work to distract the audience from seeing the other card about to be dropped rather than merely creating a frustratingly drawn-out narrative. Unlike other twist-filled films in which the upper hand constantly changes, LOVE CRIME does provide flashbacks in the end to explain any unanswered questions rather than simply leaving the audience in need of an immediate repeat viewing of the film.
LOVE CRIME started out and ended strong, but unfortunately lost its momentum half way through, losing the audience in unnecessary exposition. The film keeps you guessing from beginning to end, but some tighter editing would left the audience anxiously awaiting the answers rather than getting frustrated with their drawn-out delivery.