Actor/director Louis Garrel’s heist film The Innocent (L’ Innocent), is flat out entertaining. It hits all of the familiar beats of a romantic dark comedy, but it’s the witty, sarcastic dialogue that carries the entire establishing arc all the way to the end.
Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg) is a drama teacher in a prison who falls in love with one of her students, Michel (Roschdy Zem) who is locked up for participating in a heist. The two get married at the prison where her son Abel (Louis Garrel) is in attendance. Abel is not a smart man but an honest one and he wants to protect is mother. He is noticeably uncomfortable because his mother is marrying an ex-con, but he grins and bears it. Abel has a right to be upset as he constantly wonders if Michel is still a criminal? Or is he someone who wants to start making an honest living?
Abel lets his guard down when his stepfather and mother open a business together, but when he suddenly finds a gun in Michel’s pocket, his suspicions are reignited. His best friend and co-worker Clemence (Noemie Merlant) discuss his findings, but she suggest he pipe down with the paranoia. He also tells his mother about the gun and she doesn’t believe him either. Abel takes matters into his own hands and starts tracking Michel around Paris until he discovers something that may or may not confirm his suspicions.
The Innocent is the first movie of Cannes 2022 to give me that belly aching, knee slapping laughter that’s been lacking throughout the festival films. Sure, the film is traditional in the comedic sense but it excludes the cinematic pretentiousness included in most Cannes content.
The inventiveness of the script lies in the idea that the art of acting, and how it’s a needed skill to craft the perfect heist. Also the film leads the audience down an interesting path when it’s time to untangle the latent romance between Abel and Clemence. At one point in the movie, the duo are tasked to act out a scene about a couple breaking up, but it becomes a confessional of love that shocks them both. At first, it appeared to be a normal guy/girl friendship (which would have been refreshing), but at least it doesn’t manifest in typical, romantic comedy fashion.
Garrel cracks a smile or two in The Innocent. Normally, a detail like this isn’t worth noting, but because the actor looks to always be in a constant state of lethargic brooding, it came as a surprise to see him looking enthusiastic and spritely for a change. His co-stars Noemie Merlant and Roschdy Zem complement the actor with their hilarious and high energy and performances.
The Innocent isn’t looking to reinvent the genre or employ fancy cinematic tricks, Garrel wants to have a good time. And with the way the Cannes film festival was going for me, I wanted to have some fun too. The thing to appreciate here is its focus on keeping the audience engaged in the story and the characters—all things needed to keep momentum from beginning to end.