It all starts like a conventional French comedy. Laurent (Vincent Cassel) and Antoine (François Cluzet) are old friends going on holiday with their daughters, Louna (Lola Le Lann) and Marie (Alice Isaaz). The famous Charles Trenet song La Mer plays over the soundtrack as they drive to a sun-dappled country-house in Corsica. The teenage girls complain about the lack of mobile reception while the men – one divorced, one seemingly soon to be – moan about their love lives. You might think all four characters are about to find love on the beautiful Mediterranean island, all the while offering up bons mots about the complications of sexual desire.
But initial appearances can be deceiving, as director Jean-François Richet has something far deeper on his mind. A remake of the 1977 film with the same title, One Wild Moment exploits the limits of male desire, offering up a queasy moral play with no easy answers. As the title suggests, the film is structured around one key incident; the seduction of Laurent by Louna by the beach during a party. She may be the one who has started it, but she is only 17 and his best friend’s daughter, making Laurent’s willingness to go along with it all that more problematic.
There’s a lot of ways that this material can go wrong, either leaning too hard on poor-taste comedy or feeling too much like soft-core porn. While the film does very occasionally lean a little too much in the latter direction, it still shows the consequences that such an awful decision can bring. All is held together by a nuanced performance by Vincent Cassel, who plays a decent man who makes one extraordinarily bad mistake and has to get out of the situation alive. While Louna is somewhat underwritten, Lola Le Lann does her best to draw her character out with a lot of youthful energy. The scenes between the two of them are the best in the movie, the couple dangerously navigating each other’s fears in an awkward yet effective way.
A sense of foreboding is created by the boars that ravage Antoine’s garden, trampling on the grave of his forefathers, all buried in the same garden. Antoine, suffering from being estranged from his wife, is taking out his rage on the animals, suggesting that if he were to find out, there’d be hell to pay. This laces every moment in delicious dramatic irony, knowing that the facade of happy vacationers could fall apart at any moment. Yet, the film could’ve done more in using the island itself to represent more primal emotions (like Laura Bispuri’s Daughter of Mine did with neighbouring Sardinia earlier this year), thus coalescing into a suitably catastrophic conclusion. While the house and the neighbouring mountains and coastline are suitably picturesque, the film doesn’t allow the scenery to speak for itself, relying more on dialogue to carry its central moral dilemma.
Ultimately unsure whether its a feel-bad comedy, devastating drama, or straight-up Mediterranean noir, the movie flows gently between genres without ever truly involving us up in its story. Although enjoyable from moment to moment, especially in any scene involving Vincent Cassel alternating between ‘good guy’ dad, friend and even lover, its final power is lost by the underwhelming conclusion, which seems to sweep all its contradictions together and dismiss them with a shrug. It feels like a betrayal of its previously foreboding sense of danger, complicated depictions of power and lust, and of Cassel’s fascinating central performance. Nonetheless, it remains a fascinating portrait of men who think that their indulgences can occur without any repercussions, and how the actual reality can be so different. For one thing, it’ll make you think twice about going on holiday with family friends again.
One Wild Moment is out in September as part of the Walk This Way collection. Click here for more information about the film and also to in order to view it online now.