Fleuve Noir (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

A teenager goes missing and his mom seeks help from the police. A detective is put on the case and brings with him is own demons. As the search proves fruitless, the detective’s drinking problem becomes more of an issue as he faces off against a peculiar teacher and falls for the victim’s mother.

Based on the novel by Dror Mishani, written by Erick Zonca and Lou de Fanget Signolet with Zonca directing, Fleuve Noir is a police film that explores highly flawed humans and what they will do to protect their own and get theirs. The film is written in a clear manner with a bunch of characters that are mostly bad people or look like they are bad people. Here it’s easy to side with the mother for most of the film until things take a turn for her. The way every character is, the film gives a feeling that the world is either blasé or depressed as a whole.

This is by no small measure Vincent Cassel’s film. As usual, he gives a stunning performance, perfect for the material and in the case of his character Francois Visconti, he makes him repulsive yet vulnerable, giving him a small arc in how he acts and reacts, but also making him a complex character in his negativity. He’s not a simple man and he will not give up, Cassel gives him the amount of depth necessary for this to come across and then some. Playing against him and holding his own with talent is Romain Duris as teacher Yann Bellaile, a man who may or may not be hiding something and who definitely has some skeletons in his closet. The back and forth between Cassel and Duris is fantastic to watch and shows how two great actors can go up against each other and create some memorable cinematographic moments that are understated in some cases and in your face in others. The two of them have something going there, a chemistry of sort, that works perfectly in this film and in this story. Playing the desperate mother, Solange Arnault, actress Sandrine Kiberlain goes through the ringer for her part and does so with a dedication to the character and story as well as a connection with the viewer that is a strong pull into the story. Playing Bellaile’s wife Lola, Elodie Bouchez gives a strong performance of a woman wanting to stick by her husband but also starting to have her doubts. The leads and a other characters around them are all played as layered human beings, deeply flawed, giving the film and its story its power and its impact.

The cinematography by Paolo Carnera gives the film a moody tone with lots of grey weather and less than happy sequences. This of course is perfect for the film as it matches the story’s tone and the characters who are all a bit gloomy for most of the film, save for a few scenes here and there. The style of cinematography used shoots the film with the characters squarely the main point of interest in each scene, giving them the room they need to evolve and relate to each other. This here is clearly a wanted effect, letting the film kind of erase itself to leave the forefront to the characters and cast.

Fleuve Noir is a strong drama and police investigation film with a strong push towards being character driven. The cast does amazing work and bounces of each other perfectly for a result that is both sad and a bit uncomfortable. The story has an ending that is surprising and may not make much sense considering the way the film and characters worked towards it, but it does make some sense and is definitely and unexpected ending.

Fantasia 2018 runs from July 12th to August 2nd, 2018.