Directed by: Joachim Lafosse
Written by: Sarah Chiche, Chloé Duponchelle, Valérie Graeven
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Devos, Matthieu Galoux, Jeanne Cherhal, Louise Chevillotte, Nicolas Buysse
Released: June 27, 2024
Grade: C

A Silence

Withholding information from the audience to build intrigue is an age-old cinematic technique which sometimes works… and sometimes doesn’t.  A Silence, a French flick from director Joachim Lafosse (Private Lessons), is an example of the later.  It begins with an out-of-sequence scene in a police station and then slips back a few weeks to chronicle the events leading up.  It’s a slow burn with the three-person writing team waiting a solid hour before revealing the film’s true premise.  I was unsold on the approach as it become a silly “mystery” as opposed to an intricate drama exploring the seriousness of certain issues.

I’d like to talk about the “issues” but as they are revealed so late in the movie, I’ll be cryptic and describe this as a family drama.  The perspectives change throughout but the focus is on three key characters.  François (Auteuil) is a high-profile lawyer who loves the media spotlight and works on cases involving abused children.  Astrid (Devos) is his loyal, long-term wife who knows damaging secrets about her husband but keeps quiet to protect the family and her way of life.  Raphaël (Galoux) is their adopted teenage son going through a rebellious streak which includes skipping school.

The film has 90+ minutes to explore these three individuals but sadly, the time is wasted on unnecessary scenes which add little (such as those involving a pack of journalists parked outside the family home).  The material leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and I didn’t know much more about the character’s mindset at the end as I did at the beginning.  The dialogue between them all is trivial and aside from a probing police interrogation in the final act, it lacks the tension and drama to engage audiences (and get them thinking afterwards).  The closing scene is another disappointing weak spot.

Stars Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette) and Emmanuelle Devos (Kings and Queen) are two acclaimed French actors (they’ve each won two César Awards) but the screenplay doesn’t allow them to showcase their talents.  Perhaps I should have expected it given the title, but the film needed less “silence” and more direct confrontation between their respective characters. 

Loosely based on a true story, A Silence tackles an important subject matter but barely scratches the surface.