Autumn is a curious kind of melodramatic noir that courses with a sense of regret. Anchored around a childhood trauma that links the three main characters, it’s shot in autumnal colors that make everyone and everything look like it’s dying or about to die.
Jean-Pierre is a hit man who fails to deliver a hit when distracted by his forest-dwelling demons. He becomes re-acquainted with Michelle, who was there the day they made a grisly discovery, and André, the weak-kneed loser with a gambling affliction. They reunite for what becomes a sort of circle jerk of betrayal. Lines are crossed and double-crossed as characters from the Parisian underground get pulled down by the undertow of venality.
There is also a series of flashbacks to the characters childhood selves that clearly aspires to myth but suffers from the application of too many overworked touches that shout SYMBOLISM! The director’s hand is overplayed in those moments and in the several instances that Jean-Pierre confronts his inner child in a starkly literal-minded way.
The present-day story twists and turns its way around a locked briefcase that Michelle steals on a whim and will eventually get our two would-be honeymooners into hot water. The scene in which they’re bound together back-to-back on separate chairs, grunting bittersweet nothings, betrays its B-movie roots.
But the story plays out in a way that makes us want to go along for the ride. The noirish-love-story-through-gritted-teeth tone works, thanks to the understanding Irene Jacob and Laurent Lucas bring to their roles. They tread a fine balance between parody and earnestness, making us believe in cynics with a weariness for life who can still fall quite easily, and completely, in love.