On trial for friendship, self discovery, and murder.
A remake of Argentina’s The Accused, the French-language drama, The Girl with a Bracelet (La Fille au bracelet) takes its source material’s name to the core – in that the accused is central to the film, rather than the accusation. A bracelet can be a sign of friendship, but in this version, the titular bracelet is that of an ankle monitor, worn by a teenage girl as she faces trial for the murder of her friend.
Opening with a family distantly playing on the beach in Nantes, they are gradually approached by the police, setting a slightly dismal tone for the next 95 minutes. In a somewhat ironic fashion, this is one of the most intriguing and engaging shots of the entire film, yet it is presented within a lengthy static long-shot. Its simplicity and non-glorification of events sets a precedent for the entirety of The Girl with a Bracelet. The subsequent “Two years later” onscreen does feel routine in this nature, however, a lot has changed for the family of Lise Bataille (Melissa Guers) – the beachside house is up for sale, the parents seem loveless, they almost live in secrecy, and their eldest child is about to stand trial for murder.
In a role which can be regarded as more, “show not tell”, Melissa Guers’ limited yet fascinating and emotive performance strikes home pure authenticity throughout which adds to, not only the depiction of the character, but engagement in the debate over Lisa Bataille’s innocence. This not exclusive to the murder in which she has been accused of, instead, the film dictates a study and analysis of her life choices – specifically that of a sexual nature. Her parents, Bruno (Roschdy Zem) and Céline (Chiara Mastroianni), provide their own mix of protection and judgement of Lise. In a great duality, we see how their protective bias can adjust when present with an explicit detailing of their pure and innocent daughter. Like the child, both parents are written to perfection by writer-director Stéphane Demoustier with the actions and characteristics of both mother and father sparking great intrigue of their guilt/innocence, be it at home or in a courtroom.
Despite its outward look as a courtroom-based crime drama, in many ways, this film has tendencies in primarily existing as a coming-of-age story. A teenage girl engages in curious sexual freedom and is not only judged beyond the crime of murder, but that of self discovery. There are instances, where there are serious developments into the truth behind the murder, but these remain underdeveloped and the opportunities to transcend into a full-on, twist-and-turn courtroom thriller are quickly resisted in favour of retreating back to the character study of a victim within a judgemental society who is also accused of murder.
Ultimately, Stéphane Demoustier’s latest film is not only of a high quality, but one of incredibly importance also. It’s a story worth being told that needs to be told. The only downside here is that its outlook as a courtroom drama could deter those in need of a relatable coming-of-age story, and in reverse, those whose interest is secured by the courtroom could very well find themselves disappointed in its lack of crime narrative. Either way, The Girl with a Bracelet is a delight in female representation.
The Girl with a Bracelet will stream exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema on June 26th
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