Captivating trompe-l’œil-style thriller
by Françoise Deriaz
- A cleverly mixed cocktail of thriller, love and juvenile prostitution, Swiss director Frédéric Mermoud’s film infuses the genre with impressive human depth
In life as in Partners [+see also:
interview: Frédéric Mermoud
film profile], the youngsters are strides ahead of the forty-somethings. Certain that their brand new love can triumph over every danger, Rebecca (Nina Meurisse) and Vincent (Cyril Descours) fly around in all directions, hungry for pleasure, breathing in the scent of freedom afforded by the money earned by the sweat of their bodies. The bodies of Vincent, and Rebecca, together.
When the young man’s dead body is found by the banks of the River Rhone, the investigation led by inspectors Karine Mangin (Emmanuelle Devos) and Hervé Cagan (Gilbert Melki) begins. Both single and in their 40s, the latter have a uniform in common, as well as wandering love lives – these two professionals are more aware of their contemporaries’ demons than they are about their own woes.
From the outset, director-screenwriter Frédéric Mermoud, breaks the codes of the genre by revealing that the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Thus freed from the tyranny of suspense, he can unravel the threads of the plot, leaving space for the development of complex, convincing and vibrant characters – not the sterile icons usually associated with thrillers. Each episode of the two heedless youngsters’ love-unto-death is followed by what the two investigators discover about it, fragment by fragment.
The silent concern of the Mangin-Cagan duo then acts as a counterpoint to the excessive boldness of the two high-spirited and whimsical lovers who rush headlong towards their tragic destiny. This parallel development of two diametrically opposed modes of thinking – order and moderation on the one hand, disorder and impulsiveness on the other – which imperceptibly draw closer together, denotes an impressive mastery of dramatic tension and directing.
Mermoud also dares to break the silence surrounding juvenile prostitution on the Internet, without lapsing into moralism, by simply retracing the wild experiences of two kids who are too eager to live each day as it comes to think about tomorrow. His idea is splendidly embodied by the freshness and spontaneity of the two young actors, Meurisse and Descours.
The director is also bold enough to imagine a pair of cops who are rather emotionally damaged, but have enough human feeling to avoid ruining a young life with prison. For this reason, the Devos-Melki duo is worthy of inclusion in a list of unusual cops!
Mermoud’s short films – The Staircase (Swiss Film Prize 2004), Rachel, Parallel Parking, or his TV drama Bonhomme de Chemin(“Own Sweet Way”) – showed a budding talent that the success of Partners brilliantly confirms. The filmmaker, who was born in Switzerland in 1969 and trained at Lausanne Art School, has also just set up the production company Bande à part Films with three other outstanding directors – Ursula Meier (Home [+see also:
interview: Kacey Motten Klein
interview: Thierry Spicher
interview: Ursula Meier
film profile]), Lionel Baier (Another Man [+see also:
interview: Lionel Baier
film profile]) and Jean-Stéphane Bron (My Brother Is Getting Married [+see also:
interview: Jean-Stéphane Bron
interview: Thierry Spicher
film profile]) – and is already working on a new project, Hannibal.