Mineurs 27: Film Review

Artsy pedophilia thriller fails to make its message heard.

Combining a Gus Van Sant-style aesthetic with a plot straight out of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the seaside-set film from French writer-director Tristan Auroeut follows various characters haunted by a scandal which comes back to bite them in the worst ways.

PARIS — A muddled sophomore effort from Tristan Auroeut – whose 2004 film Narcowas a local cult hit – Mineurs 27 shows that the French writer-director can certainly think outside the box, but doesn’t necessarily have the tools to build a solid thriller. Combining a Gus Van Sant-style aesthetic with a plot straight out of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the seaside-set film follows various characters haunted by a pedophilia scandal which comes back to bite them in the worst ways. Some strong performances and imagery help drive an offbeat oeuvre that won’t have the staying power of Auroeut’s debut.

By offering Frenchies a fresh mix of dark comedy and pop culture references, Narco (which starred Guillaume Canet and Benoit Poelvoorde) heralded the coming of a new talent in Auroeut, who co-directed the film with actor Gilles Lellouche (Little White Lies).

Attempting to once again deliver a movie that’s left of field from the usual Gallic fare, he has fashioned a highly aestheticized depiction of adolescent trauma that brings to mind Van Sant’s Paranoid Park and Elephant. (The fact that the movie was projected, and likely shot, in the Academy ratio only underlines its comparison to the latter.)

But although Mineurs 27starts off as an artsy meditation filled with dreamy visuals from gifted DP Arnaud Potier (Jusqu’à toi), it eventually slides toward more generic thriller territory in its second half. By that point, late teens Wilson (Nassim Si Ahmed), Stan (Finnegan Oldfield) and Deborah (Marie-Ange Casta) have already spent lots of screen time wandering around the sand dunes of Southwest France, where they embark on a sort of love triangle before memories of childhood sex abuse resurface.

Crosscutting between the three adolescents and a hardened cop (Jean-Pierre Anglage) involved in the affair, the narrative builds some momentum, though it’s not enough to give a lengthy and violent denouement the weight it needs. When Auroeut throws in two goofball thugs (played by Gilles Lellouche and his brother, Philippe) to provide a few laughs, it doesn’t really jive with the rest of the material, which ultimately comes across as too serious for the film itself to handle.

Performances by youngsters Ahmed and Oldfield are captivating, while vet Anglade (Persecution) convincingly portrays a detective who could easily be mistaken for a serial killer.

Sound mix on the digital projection at the Paris Cinema Fest was rough in spots.

Venue: Paris Cinema Festival
Production companies: Manny Films, Millimages, Onyx Films
Cast: Jean-Hughes Anglade, Gilles Lellouche, Marie-Ange Casta, Nassim Si Ahmed, Finnegan Oldfield, Aissa Maiga, Philippe Lellouche, Eric de Montalier
Director: Tristan Auroeut
Screenwriters: Tristan Auroeut, Jerome Reijasse, Bruno Rolland, Dominique Turin
Producers: Philippe Gompel, Aurelia Grossmann
Director of photography: Arnaud Potier
Costume designer: Frederic Cambier
Editor: Olivier Gajan
Sales Agent: Bac Films
No rating, 105 minutes

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