Stéphane Demoustier’s compelling whydunnit showcases a knockout central performance but lacks a jaw-dropping payoff
Neither shiny nor accessory, the anklet of The Girl with a Bracelet is in fact a piece of electronic tagging – a manifestation of the burden Lise Bataille (Melissa Guers) must carry, two years after being accused of killing her best friend.
Stéphane Demoustier’s intriguing courtroom drama is clinically stylish from the off – while a family plays at the beach, three police officers calmly come and take the daughter away in the wake of an unseen tragedy. Fast forward to the present day and most of the intrigue takes place during the trial, as Lise must relive and retell what happened on the fatal night.
Guers’ performance as Lise is precise and compelling, sharing details, both painful and intimate, with always composed body language. Her eyes flicker but for a moment, and even in moments that could, and certainly would, break many comparable characters in such circumstances, she keeps it together.
Little separates each day, or chapter, of the trial. An uneventful night’s sleep, a cigarette break. A car journey. Demoustier stays focused on that one room, on the unravelling of the story to fill in the gaps. It’s a battle of wits between Lise, the prosecutor, the defendant’s lawyer, and the witnesses. Lise has been the only suspect for the last two years – but there still isn’t enough evidence. So where do we go from here?
It’s a question the viewer keeps asking, as such incisive dialogue – and increasingly revealing memories – maintains tension and intrigue despite a non-changing setting. There’s something of Netflix anthology series The Sinner, which takes a murder case and builds around a whydunit over a whodunit. The Girl with a Bracelet tiptoes around both – not saying explicitly whether Lise did or didn’t do it, but making sure that, whichever side you fall on, there is enough detail for it to make sense.
The complex nature of such a case – the death of a teenage girl, now leading to the questioning of another teenage girl by focusing specially on her sex life – is explored sensitively but powerfully. There’s no gratuitous explicit scenes or triggering flashbacks. If it’s not acceptable in the courtroom, it’s not forced on the viewer.
Such a rigorous approach throughout can lead to some frustration by the end. Because the film is more preoccupied by the process, by Lise’s accounts, the truthful nature of the case which is still incomplete, there is no jaw-dropping twist. But when the payoff comes, some mystery remains: Lise walks out into the world, takes the chain from around her neck, and ties it twice around her ankle. The bracelet has changed – but has she?
The Girl with a Bracelet is available on Curzon Home Cinema from 26 June.Where to watch