This intriguing, ably shot and directed addition to the ‘cinema of anxiety’ sees a bourgeois Parisian couple (Laurent Lucas and Hélène Fillières) – about to leave, sans children, for a holiday in Venice – pick up and keep a holdall left by a Arab traveller. When it turns out to be full of banknotes and they spot the Arab gentleman on nearby streets, their initial soupçon of guilt is compounded by paranoiac imaginings of terrorist plots which begin to unsettle and threaten the delicate balance of their already pressurised social relations, careers (as architect and voice-actress), and hurried, cash-strapped family life. Adopting a tradition that goes back at least as far as Alain Jessua’s ’60s ‘Life Upside Down’, debutant Brice Cauvin maps out a descent into uncharacteristic behaviour, hallucination, infantalism and isolation in nice, small, naturalist steps, well served by his leads, especially doleful Lucas, the Monsieur Neurosis of modern French cinema. Less successful is its bid for grander metaphor, undermined intially by over-reliance on realist trickery and finally by an ambitious ending for which the viewer has been insufficiently prepared.
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