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05/06/15 6:13am
05/06/2015 6:13 AM |
photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group

In the Name of My Daughter
Directed by André Téchiné
Opens May 15

In his last several films, arthouse mainstay André Téchiné has explored the deceptions that unravel tight-knit families and communities; Lifetime Original Movie-titled In the Name of My Daughter continues the trend in depicting the filial betrayal of a young divorcee at the behest of her manipulative seducer. Adèle Haenel plays impulsive Agnès Le Roux, a casino heiress whose financially inept mother Renée (Catherine Deneuve) is withholding her father’s inheritance. Seeking revenge against Renée for refusing to make him casino manager, playboy attorney Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) sleeps with Agnès and then encourages her to use her shareholder’s vote to oust the matriarch from the casino board. A gangster takes over the business only to dissolve it as part of a real estate scheme; meanwhile, Agnès rejects any reconciliation with Renée and subsequently becomes obsessed with the emotionally distant Maurice. When Agnès goes missing after a suicide attempt a ruined Renée suspects Maurice of financially motivated murder.

Téchiné is an unpretentious dramatist who employs unobstrusive camerawork and editing—only an alternatingly lush and desaturated color scheme stands out here—so that his actors may tell the tale. As regal as ever, Deneuve moves from stubborn to wounded to broken with poignant grace, and Haenel—so terrific in Water Lilies as a mere teenager—effortlessly conveys the desperation within Agnès’s ostensible longing for independence and love. Canet, however, steals the show with his crafty interpretation of a highly mysterious character. In the Name of My Daughter is based on true and unresolved events occurring on the French Riviera in the mid-70s, and Canet portrays Agnelet as an ambiguous shyster who sells his exploitation and abandonment of Le Roux the younger as a charming case of caveat emptor.

The film gradually unveils Agnelet’s sociopathy even while refusing to outright accuse him, though the last act feels rushed and forced: representing only one of the three trials brought against an exiled Agnelet starting in 2006, Téchiné attempts to dig deeper into the lawyer’s villainy and Renée’s suffering but ultimately must resort to summarizing the convoluted vagaries of the law in a series of
on-screen texts.