The Girl with a Bracelet (Icarus Films, NR)

The action in Stéphane Demoustier’s The Girl with a Bracelet begins during the credit sequence, as we see a French family’s beach vacation interrupted by police, who take away the teenage daughter. It’s all seen in long shot, and no dialogue is heard, nor is any explanation given. Then the film jumps ahead two years, where we find the arrested individual, now 18 years old, under house arrest (so the bracelet is an ankle monitor used to track her movements). Not until the girl’s trial begins do we start to get the story filled in: Lise Bataille (newcomer Melissa Guers), is accused of murdering a girl of the same age, Flora (Émilie Lehuraux), at a sleepover following a party at Flora’s house. This course of events does not seem probable at first—the girls were best friends, and were seen enjoying each other’s company earlier the same evening (much of the evidence in the trial comes from cell phone recordings)—but then a possible motive emerges.

Flora videotaped Lise engaging in a sex act, then posted the video to the internet. Anyone familiar with teenagers won’t be entirely shocked at this revelation, and it doesn’t seem like sufficient motivation for murder, since Lise knew she was being videotaped at the time, and Flora took down the video when Lise asked her to. Still, no other suspects have emerged in the case, and only Lise’s DNA was found on Flora’s body. Lise, oddly enough, doesn’t seem concerned about the charges—whether at home with her family, or testifying in the courtroom, her demeanor is that of adolescent defiance and removal, as if it would simply be beneath her to acknowledge the adults or their concerns. That attitude, as well as some revelations about Lise’s personal life, threaten to become ancillary lines of evidence against her.

A verdict will be reached before the final credits roll, but the key interest in The Girl with a Bracelet lies not in Lise’s guilt or innocence, but in the relationships among the members of her family. Gradually, the basis of this middle class household is revealed to be less cohesiveness than indifference, and we learn that Lise was living a life of which her parents, Céline (Chiara Mastroianni) and Bruno (Roschdy Zem) knew little. Céline, for her part, seems remarkably unconcerned with her daughter’s fate, preferring to attend to her patients rather than be present in court, while Bruno’s communications to his daughter mainly involve how she should comport herself during the trial.

Most of the film takes place in the courtroom, where the “action” lies in dialogue rather than movement. The essential stasis of this setting focuses the viewer’s attention not only on the words being spoken, but also on the appearance of each individual who appears before the camera. The visual interest of The Girl with a Bracelet is amplified by color choices so specific I had to do a bit of online searching to come up with appropriate labels to describe the set and costumes. The walls of the courtroom are painted raspberry, the defendant on one day wears cobalt blue, on another cerulean, a witness wears a butter yellow sweater, and the judge’s robes are crimson. In contrast, the lawyers (Anaïs Demoustier and Anne Mercier) and court officers are in uniform—black robes and white scarves for the former, Navy blue uniforms for the latter—and Céline and Bruno wear muted shades of blue and green, suggesting they wish to project respectability while also wishing they could remove themselves from the whole sordid business. Given the importance of these details in the film, special kudos are due to cinematographer Sylvain Verdet, costume designer Anne-Sophie Gledhill, and art director Catherine Cosme. | Sarah Boslaugh

The Girl with a Bracelet is distributed on DVD by Icarus Films. The only extras on the disc are several trailers for other films, and information about Icarus Films and Distrib Films; there is also a catalog of Icarus Films included in the slipcase.

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