A well-performed thriller that winds up sliding off the rails during the obligatory third act reveal, Boomerang is a solid if somewhat conventionally made whodunit that benefits from a strong cast and a plot that hooks you for most of the running time.
Starring Laurent Laffitte (Bright Days Ahead) and Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) as a pair of siblings haunted by the mysterious death of their mother 30 years prior, this third feature from writer-director Francois Favrat (The Role of Her Life) should score modest numbers in France, with possibilities for overseas playdates — especially with a story that was adapted from a bestseller (entitled A Secret Kept in English) by Sarah’s Key writer Tatiana De Rosnay.
Antoine (Lafitte) is a 40-year-old divorcé obsessed with his mother’s drowning, which occurred when he was 10. Taking his sister, Agathe (Laurent), along on a trip to the Atlantic coastal island where their mom died, he begins to discover some disturbing things about the incident, such as the fact that her body washed up 10 kilometers across the bay, or that he and his sis slept at a servant’s house the night before the death.
Trying to solve the mystery as a means to purge his inner demons — when he’s not playing detective, Antoine sits through several futile therapy sessions — he eventually clashes with his authoritarian father (Wladimir Yordanoff), who’s clearly covering up something from that fateful day. Meanwhile, Antoine’s kind old grandma (Bulle Ogier) may have her own secrets to hide, and there’s no other way for the scorned son/grandson to get at the truth than to confront his family head on.
Heavy on the exposition side during its opening reel, the script — written by Favrat in collaboration with Emmanuel Courcol (Welcome) — grows more intriguing as the key players deal with a series of twists that are sometimes broadly handled, but provide enough material to chew on. It’s only later, when the facts start revealing themselves, that a certain number of questions arise, such as: Why doesn’t Antoine contact the police or search through news archives, where he could have learned things it takes him half the movie to figure out? And how can someone drown in what looks like only a few feet of water?
Such details hamper what’s otherwise a fairly involving narrative, until flashbacks eventually show us what really happened and the secret behind the door turns out to be a bit of a letdown — if a somewhat unexpected one. Still, even those scenes are salvaged by a well-trained cast — particularly Comedie-Francaise stalwart Lafitte, playing a darker role than usual, and doing it with the ease of someone heading out to buy the morning paper. Laurent is also good as a younger sibling in denial of her daddy’s bad deeds, while New Wave great Ogier is sweetly sinister in her handful of scenes.
While there’s nothing groundbreaking about the filmmaking, Boomerang is proficiently directed by Favrat and smoothly shot in widescreen by Laurent Brunet (Microbe & Gasoline). The score by Eric Neveux teeters toward the cheesy side — as does a movie that doesn’t always convince, but offers up enough reasons to keep us watching.
Production companies: Les Films du Kiosque, France 2 Cinema, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels
Cast: Laurent Lafitte, Melanie Laurent, Audrey Dana, Wladimir Yordanoff, Bulle Ogier
Director: Francois Favrat
Screenwriter: Francois Favrat, in collaboration with Emmanuel Courcol, based on the book by Tatiana de Rosnay
Producers: Francois Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne
Director of photography: Laurent Brunet
Production designer: Mathieu Menut
Costume designer: Emmanuelle Youchnovski
Editor: Valerie Deseine
Composer: Eric Neveux
Casting director: Antoine Carrard
Sales agent: TF1 International
No rating, 101 minutes