A competent thriller, heavily indebted to 90s erotic thrillers and in need of a few more personal touches.
Synopsis: The lives of a wealthy publisher and her novelist husband are changed by the arrival of a mysterious young woman at their country mansion.
As far as first features go, it is hard to imagine anything more impactful than Fabrice du Welz’s Calvaire, a film that purposefully adopted the trappings of European ‘ordeal’ cinema, right down to the name. Inexorable manages to include some moments of Welz’s flair for oddness and discomfort, but otherwise, we are experiencing something far more tame and even throwback here in his take on an erotic thriller.
Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an author, living with his wealthy wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) and daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy) in a mansion left to her by Jeanne’s father. When Lucie’s new dog Ulysses runs off, the family fear the worst, but the dog is brought back in strangely commanding manner by Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi). Agreeing to take on training duties, Gloria later finds herself in need of a place to stay and is invited by Jeanne to occupy a room in the mansion, bringing the competing wants and desires of them all into sharp focus.
This is a perfectly serviceable cuckoo thriller with leanings towards the erotic thriller, although with the discomfort turned up considerably. Although the plot beats here are incredibly familiar, there are a few Welz touches that threaten to shake up the format. Those moments are arguably too few and far between, but when they do arrive, they are genuinely interesting, stirring intrusions that stick in the mind. Otherwise, you can likely tell exactly where this film is headed before it sets itself in motion.
There is also some introspection in terms of Marcel’s position, particularly in his growing discomfort in trying to fill the space of the mansion, a space in need of reconstruction. The house dwarfs the family, but the spirit of wife Jeanne’s father also dwarfs Marcel – offers to move into his office trigger intense feelings of inadequacy for him that extend into other areas of his life. The setting of the house puts all the relationships under a microscope with the vast rooms offering no comfort or communal space, further fracturing the way the characters interact.
Bellugi is excellent as Gloria, able to embody the quiet, vulnerable sections as well as the more dynamic scenes required later on. Special recommendation must be made of the film’s youngest cast member Janaina Halloy who centres one of the film’s most challenging moments. Elsewhere, Mélanie Doutey makes a spectacle out of silence, expertly drawing meaning and emotion with facial expressions. In contrast, but no less effective, Benoît Poelvoorde is tasked with various near-monologues, blurting his thoughts and anger into the open.
Inexorable toys with getting a little stranger at certain points and feels like it lacks that gear change it would have if that oddness was allowed to fully flourished. Still, there is enough atmosphere and thrilling moments to soak up that you won’t come away feeling unfulfilled.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Inexorable screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2021.