With his fourth feature directing, mop-haired actor-director Louis Garrel puts a French stamp on the Hollywood heist movie. The Innocent is a screwball romcom-caper starring Garrel himself as a guy who gets caught up in a plot to pilfer a job lot of caviar (you don’t get more Gallic than that). It’s a broad, enjoyable, lighthearted movie with a fair few not-insignificant plot holes, but a genuinely surprising storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.
Garrel plays Abel, a young widower, just 32, who’s been emotionally dormant since his wife died. Though he is is close to his mum, Sylvie, a charismatic, warm chaotic actor played with fizzing comic energy by Anouk Grinberg. Sylvie has a thing for bad guys; her latest squeeze is suave thief Michel (Roschdy Zem). They met in prison when she was teaching an acting workshop and he was banged up for a five-stretch. Head over heels, they get married and after Michel is released, open a florist together.
But Abel suspects that his mum’s new husband is not quite as committed to the straight and narrow as he claims. When he finds a gun in Michel’s pocket, he turns private eye. Abel’s best friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant) is appalled by his nosing about. The pair’s will-they-won’t-they-get-together is the most predictable aspect of the movie. Elsewhere, the plot takes some pleasingly barmy turns, as Abel is dragged into a criminal enterprise, ending with a madly over-the-top set piece. It’s intensely French, though you can imagine it getting an English language remake; though I’d bet a packet of Gauloises the Hollywood version will change the ending.