By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Opening the Crème de la Crème French film weekend last night was The Unknown Girl – an official selection at Cannes last year that sees a young doctor obsess over the murder of a girl near her office.
Directed by the Belgian Dardenne brothers, this is a film that attempts a lot in the way of mood and atmosphere by unconventional means.
The Unknown Girl presents itself as a no bullshit Nordic style thriller; something you’d expect to see in a book by Swedish author Stieg Larrson or in an episode of Danish series The Bridge. But these stories rely a lot on the atmosphere determined by music, not to mention stunning shots and art direction.
The Dardennes strip down all of that and instead put an emphasis on one thing, and that’s the character of Doctor Jenny Davin played by Adèle Haenel. Although sometimes a bit one-dimensional, Davin is interesting. She’s obsessive as we see from the get-go with the way she treats her work and it’s evident that she’s also incredibly stubborn, and unable to let go of much.
…just look at her ugly tartan jacket, which she adorns for majority of the film and somehow becomes a kind of uniform for her. Although she shows some degree of empathy with her older patients, she is reasonably straight forward and stubborn. She’s an interesting adaptation of a classic detective character. A colder cut-to-the-chase version of Sherlock Holmes.
It’s a reasonably engaging crime mystery that borderlines thriller on some occasions, but there’s never enough fleshed out of either the plot or the character of Davin to really sink your teeth into. There are times when minor characters veer off into strange territory as well, especially towards the end.
This film definitely could have done with a little more mood and atmosphere. Davin is interesting but incapable of having the entire weight of a film rest on her shoulders.