In Your Wake



David Oelhoffen's "In Your Wake" (Nos Retrouvailles) is a psychological thriller that uses the heist-gone-wrong genre as a peg on which to hang an absorbing father-and-son story. Strong on psychology but sparse on thrills, the movie is an assured debut that will win plenty of admirers and should perform respectably at the boxoffice in France without threatening to break records elsewhere.

Twenty-year-old Marco (Nicolas Giraud) leads a solitary, humdrum existence working in a canteen. When his father, Gabriel (Jacques Gamblin), reappears after having ignored him for several years, he is only too happy to set aside his resentment and renew their relationship. Gabriel, handsome and engaging, has been down on his luck following a serious car accident but is now ready to bounce back. He plans to open a bar, a venture for which he has high hopes, and invites his son to join him in. Everything's set, apart from the money.

It soon becomes clear that Gabriel talks a good game but is short on delivery. He tells Marco that he has been tricked out of the money that he'd been counting on but has a plan to recover it. He sets Marco to trailing a night watchman, Ruiz (Jacques Spiesser), on his way home from work. Then he introduces Marco to Krosiki (Gerald Laroche), a small-time operator with whom, we soon learn, he is preparing a robbery at the factory where Ruiz works. He acts mysteriously, exercising emotional blackmail on his son, until at last Marco vents his frustration and forces Gabriel to confess: There never was a car accident. He had a nervous breakdown following a drug addiction and had spent time recovering in a psychiatric ward.

The movie charts the fluctuations in Marco's feelings in the buildup to the heist as he veers back and forth between admiration and contempt, hope and disappointment, love and hate. When Gabriel wavers at the prospect of action, it is Marco who stiffens his resolve. The operation goes ahead, with Marco as their driver. The acid test of their relationship comes during the heat of the action when Ruiz, under Krosiki's brutal treatment, suffers a stroke that clearly requires treatment.

An award-winning short filmmaker who also writes, Oelhoffen is less interested in suspense than in observing relationships, which is reflected in the cool, studied approach of the movie. He films in semi-documentary style with long, leisurely takes, presenting Marco's point of view as he follows Ruiz through the early morning streets or on the Paris subway or at the boxing club where Marco works off his aggression.

With Lubomir Bakchev's clinical cinematography and restrained performances from an excellent cast, particularly Gamblin, Oelhoffen keeps the emotional fires banked down. The impression is that of a meticulous craftsman in perfect control of his material.

Kaleo Films
Director: David Oelhoffen
Writers: David Oelhoffen, Antoine Lacomblez
Producer: Olivier Charvet
Director of photography: Lubomir Bakchev
Production design: Philippe Jacob
Editor: Sophie Bousquet-Foures
Marco: Nicolas Giraud
Gabriel: Jacques Gamblin
Krosiki: Gerald Laroche
Ruiz: Jacques Spiesser
Elena: Marie Denarnaud
Running time -- 99 minutes
No MPAA rating