Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival, Out of Competition

VENICE -- A metaphor for the inexpressible grief a woman feels after losing her only child in the great Asian tsunami in 2005, Fabrice du Welz's "Vinyan" turns into a murky, wet jungle picture. It tells of a desperate journey up river into a hot and sweaty land populated with what might be the offspring of those weird looming figures in "Apocalypse Now." As Chef Hicks says in that movie: "Never leave the boat."

Turning from a heartfelt examination of loss into a would-be horror tale filled with drunken dreams and hallucinations, the film loses its way leaving stars Emannuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell, doing the best they can, wandering lost in a morass of thick forest and missed opportunities. With the drama not dramatic and the horror not horrifying, the film will be difficult to sell.

The intriguing opening shows Jeanne (Beart) and Paul (Sewell) still struggling with the loss of their son Joshua, who was swept away in the tsunami in Thailand. It's been six months, but they've stayed on in Phuket, where Paul works as an architect.

At a charity fundraiser, social worker Kim (Julie Dreyfuss) shows video of her work with children in Burma, where dire poverty drives parents to sell their children. It sounds like a buyers' market but Jeanne thinks she sees her son in his Manchester United shirt pictured among the rootless kids and becomes convinced that he's been literally sold up the river.

She determines to find the Burmese operator, Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah), who helped Kim enter the country, and go to find her child. The film's credibility takes another hit as, rather than simply getting Gao's number from Kim, Jeanne plunges into the chaotic and dangerous world of Phuket nightlife asking if anyone knows the man. Paul goes after her and Du Welz portrays a maelstrom of images before a man name Boomsong (Joey Boy) tells them to forget Gao, he'll take them into Burma.

What follows is a predictable tale of bribery and treachery as they finally find Gao and foray into an almost impenetrable part of the world. Paul tries to keep a cap on Jeanne's increasingly frenetic and impulsive behavior while Gao leads them from one island to another in deep mist and heavy rain.

The final act sees Paul and Jeanne alone in a world of lost children with lots of mystical references to death and spirits, as Jeanne's pain and guilt erupts in hatred and madness after concluding that Paul was responsible for losing their son. Never leave the boat!

Production companies: Michael Gentile, Film4. Cast: Emannuelle Beart, Rufus Sewell, Petch Osathanugrah, Joey Boy. Director, screenwriter: Fabrice du Welz. Producer: Michael Gentile. Executive producers: Peter Carlton, Adrian Politowski, Nadia Khamlichi, Jeremy Burdek. Director of photography: Benoit Debie. Production designer: Arin Pinijvararak. Music: Francoise-Eudes Chanfrault. Costume designers: Geraldine Picron, Pensri Boonjareon
Editor: Colin Monie. Sales agent: Wild Bunch. Not rated, 97 minutes

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