Five years after The Girl on the Train, André Téchiné tackles another real-life cause célèbre in which the central transgression may never have occurred. Like Chabrol, his concern is less for the crimes, or paranoid accusations, than for the emotional and interpersonal tensions they incite.
The bulk of the film recounts events leading up to the 1977 disappearance of heiress Agnès Le Roux (Adèle Haenel). Her lover Maurice (Guillaume Canet), a lawyer who’d helped Agnès’s mother (Catherine Deneuve) take control of a casino and then dethroned her with help from Agnès, emigrated to Panama when she went missing. Agnès’s body was never discovered, but her fortune found its way into Maurice’s bank account.
While most directors would mine a Gone Girl–esque thriller from Agnès’s disappearance, or at least venture a hypothesis on the cause (and veracity) of her death, Téchiné’s interest lies in the mechanics of manipulation—in depicting how each person in the focal trio betrayed one if not both of the others. However, once Agnès vanishes, the account turns perfunctory, as Téchiné skips forward 30 years to courtroom scenes offering little more than the sight of a frail, gray-haired Deneuve, as Madame Le Roux, denouncing Maurice (with Canet unconvincingly aged).
But for most of the run time, Téchiné exhibits masterful control, dispensing psychological details even as he withholds narrative ones. And Haenel’s impassioned performance never lets us forget the woman around whom the machinations play out.