'The Storm Inside': Filmart/Hong Kong Review

Orage Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Rezo Films
A darkly engaging exploration of middle-age and middle-class discontent.

Fabrice Camoin makes his feature debut with an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ 1960 novel ‘Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night.'

Middle-age malaise and the search for something greater is at heart of this quietly affecting psychodrama from debuting filmmaker Fabrice Camoin, adapted from Marguerite Duras’s novel, Dix heures et demie du soir en ete (Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night). The Storm Inside refers not only to the event that sets the action in motion but to the conflicting desires and fears of the central characters as they search for redemption of sorts from their own lives. Economical with its words as well as its images and loaded with themes ranging from casual racism, collapsing marriage and bourgeois activism, The Storm Inside is likely to find the most exposure on the festival circuit, in limited release in Europe where much of subject matter will be familiar and in art-house markets overseas.

Self-destructive alcoholic Maria (Marina Fois), her husband Pierre (Louis-Do De Lencquesaing), their daughter Judith (Jeanne Jestin) and family friend Louise (Valerie Donzelli) have their summer vacation interrupted when a violent thunderstorm closes the roads between France and Spain and strands them on the border. After checking into an overcrowded hotel for the night, Maria wanders into a local pub and proceeds to drink away her unhappiness. At the same time, a manhunt is on for Nabil (Sami Bouajila), an Arab man who just killed his wife and her lover, by both the police and some angry locals. When Maria's late-night wanderings lead her to witnessing an indiscretion between Pierre and Louise, the subsequent encounter with Nabil on the hotel roof inspires her to impulsively offer to help sneak him across the border, and ultimately onto a ship to Morocco. Having few options, Nabil finds himself going along with her plan.

From the opening minutes of painterly, otherworldly landscapes and foreboding skies, The Storm Inside suggests the roiling emotions of its characters and the baffling, reckless choices they make in a delicate balancing act that maintains empathy and dispenses with judgment. Maria’s reckless decisions often strain credulity, but then Camoin, co-writer Ariane Fert and Fois wrestle her back to reality with an understated dose of self-awareness. She refers to herself as “anesthetized” to her own life, making her frequent flashes of lucidity more painful than infuriating, especially with regards to Judith. Similarly, Bouajila shades the cuckolded Nabil's remorse with equal parts fury, shame and emotional hurt as he toggles between running away and turning himself in. Nabil is also never allowed to tip over into the abyss of symbolic archetype, and calls Maria out on her “middle-class alcoholism” and desire to “save” the Arab.

As the pair heads south through Spain, it becomes clear their strange connection transcends infidelity and that they’re each running from an intangible misery. It's also clear neither quite knows what to do if and when they escape. Camoin’s debut is an assured, if occasionally on-the-nose, exploration of individuals on the verge of imploding, and he is helped along by pithy, ironic images from cinematographer Pierric Gantelmi D’Ille, whose sunny Spanish countryside belies Maria and Nabil’s private turmoil.

Production company: Les Films du Poisson
Cast: Marina Fois, Sami Bouajila, Louis-Do De Lencquesaing, Valerie Donzelli, Jeanne Jestin, Rasha Bukvic, Slimane Dazi
Fabrice Camoin
Fabrice Camoin, Ariane Fert
Producer: Laetitia Gonzalez, Yael Fogiel
Executive producer: Nathalie Vellet
Director of photography: Pierric Gantelmi D’Ille
Production designer: Emmanuel de Chauvigny, Christophe Offret
Costume designer: Bethsabee Dreyfus
Editor: Muriel Breton
Music: Alexis Rault
Casting: Constance Demontoy
World sales:
Reel Suspects

In French

Not rated, 84 minutes