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|Nathalie Baye||Caroline Vaudieu|
|Jalil Lespert||Antoine Derouère|
|Xavier Beauvois||Nicolas Morbé|
|Xavier Beauvois||Director, Screenwriter|
|Alain Tchillinguirian||Production Designer|
Posted October 1, 2010
Director Xavier Beauvois, with the intelligent and sensitive script he co-wrote with Cédric Anger, Guillaume Bréaud and Jean-Eric Troubat, allows us, the viewers, to look inside the minds and lives of those people who commit to police work in a manner that pays homage to a maligned group and reinstates our visceral support to the spectrum of on the edge terror mixed with spaces of ennui that these people endure. LA PETIT LIEUTENANT is not a crime film: it is a deeply touching inside view of the men and women who protect us. Opening with well-staged Le Havre Police Academy graduation images Beauvois focuses on newly graduated Antoine Derouère (Jalil Lespert) as he says goodbye to his family and his wife Julie (Bérangère Allaux), a school teacher who pleads with Antoine not to leave Le Havre for Paris, the destination Antoine seeks to prove his desire for an active detective career. The kind but inexperienced Antoine takes up residence in Paris and is assigned to a homicide unit with equally inexperienced young men who learn the ropes of owning a gun, the embarrassment of performance problems at the shooting range, the awkward first 'arrests' and interrogations, and the endless hours of sitting at a desk waiting for activity. Newly assigned as the head of Antoine's unit is Commandant Caroline Vaudieu (the extraordinary actress Nathalie Baye) who has just come off a two year sabbatical to recover from alcoholism and the associated death of her son from meningitis. The manner in which these people bond is quiet and sensitive and when finally a case comes to their attention - a man found dead in the canal - the force joins begins what they all need to do: the killer must be found. Clues are explored, people are traced, and Antoine and Vandieu form a particularly close bond, Antoine reminding Vandieu of the son she has lost and Vandieu providing the model for his career. Tension mounts as the criminals are pursued, coincidences occur and a tragedy cracks the bond of the group, affecting each member of the small force immeasurably. It is this very human happening and its effects that wind the movie down to moments of painful acceptance of the life of police people. The entire cast is first rate and provides ensemble acting that is among the finest on screen. But the portrayal by Nathalie Baye is so multifaceted, embracing the inner trauma of personal losses not only of those she loves but also of her own sense of dignity as she faithfully attends AA meetings, that her performance is triumphant. Jalil Lespert also captures the fine line between innocence and experience that makes his portrait of a new detective not only completely credible but also one that leaves a mark on the heart. The direction and the cinematography by Caroline Champetier keep the film nearly monochromatic, the only color that is left to shock us for a brief moment is the red blood at moments of tension. And the lack of a musical score keeps the tone of the humanity of the film intact, never reducing it to a bombastic Hollywood chase and kill film. This is a little jewel of a film that deserves a very wide audience. Highly Recommended. In French, Polish, and Russian with English subtitles. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.