IFI French Film Festival: Thursday

After the dark humour of Mammuth, which starred Gérard Depardieu as Serge, a retiree who takes to the road on his motorbike in search of the important paperwork – I proceed to enjoy the full IFI experience and get some delicious grub and their special French wine before the later screening. So by the time In The Beginning began at 8:15pm, I was both very full and quite sleepy. This did not last long, however… as I was snapped into awakeness by the high energy and engaging nature of the film.

The incredible plot of the film is actually based on true events; a loner conman, Paul, visits a small French town, which has gone into decline after construction stopped on a highway there a number of years ago. Paul, going under the name Phillip Miller, is mistaken for an official who’s restarting the project, and tries to scam the town’s people out of cash. However when he begins to get personally involved with the locals, especially Stéphane; the beautiful mayor, his plans change. Paul/Phillip goes to unbelievable lengths and manages to fake a company, employ the locals and even begin building the road – but things begin to fall apart when his past catches up with him.

This film is very well directed, shot and is dappled with a host of great actors. Leading with a deep and believable performance is François Cluzet, but also deserving a special mention is the quirky character of Monkia (Soko) and lovable skanger, Nicolas, as played by Vincent Rottiers. Even Gérard Depardieu pops up again, as he does in most French films, as the menacing gangster, Abel.

And here is where I present the compliment sandwich: Although the tension and plot builds effortlessly, the only fault with In The Beginning is its slow paced ending that doesn’t completely satisfy. This however is only a minor disappointment, as the script, story and characters are all so strong. I would go as far as saying that In The Beginning is one of the best films I’ve seen for quite a while, and to keep the vein of good conman flicks – you should Catch It When You Can!

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