The girl touches on superhuman noses, family drama, witchcraft, queer romance and time travel. In theory, all these things put together should not work, but the director Léa Mysius in “Five devils” sensors, the original film is driven by one of the best performances so far this year, the humanity of Adèle Exarchopoulos.
In a small village situated at the foot of the French Alps, it is said that a small family was healed of many wounds. Joanne’s mother (Exarchopoulos) is an unhappy swimming instructor who has broken up with her longtime partner Jimmy (Moustapha Mbengue). All his affection goes to his sweet daughter Vicky (Sally Dramé), who, we soon learn, has a precocious sense of smell that allows her not only to detect distant people and objects, but also to replicate any scent and store it in glass jars. .
The family’s daily life changes with the return of Julia (Swala Emati), Jimmy’s sister who left town after suffering various mental problems related to strange visions. We quickly learn that the town, plagued by homophobia and racism, hates Julia almost as much as John, who becomes violent whenever she is in her presence. So, with her curiosity and her unusual ability, Vicky begins to explore her family’s past to understand where her mother’s grudge against Julia comes from.
Léa Mysius plays with fantasy and science fiction in a way that is unusual and fascinates, when it does not care about the logic or the explanation of the vicar’s existence, but treats them as a normal story to tell – which in fact there is nothing supernatural about it – through the eyes of a girl with her existential problems . It is the first approach to explore issues of identity and family trauma.
Adèle Exarchopoulos (“Zero Fucks Given”) is sublime as a woman who is blessed to be a mother, but unhappy in all other aspects of her life. The actress shows an authentic and open vulnerability that gradually allows her to feel a deep loneliness, but she does so without revealing the mystery of her past. When, surprisingly on stage, his character forgets the whispers of others and embraces his identity, Exarchopoulos unleashes a tsunami of heat and desire heralding the dramatic third act. Swala Emati (in her debut feature film) is not far behind and produces sparks together with Adèle in the said scene.
Sally Dramé steals the show more than once. The small actress hangs in the tonal balance of the film, because in her great performance we find a lot of tenderness and a relieved attitude, but also a slightly disturbing touch that is aggravated when she wants to hurt someone. This is the production of the fear of losing the mother, which is brilliantly justified by Mysius through the mother-in-law of the scene, such as the beginning of the veil in the pond or the “game” in the woods, which exists as a firm love. from Vicky to John.
Not all of the “Five Devils” writing touches on the character, as Mysius doesn’t quite explore the characters of Jimmy and Julia, who only serve to develop the white protagonist. Likewise, arguments such as mental health, bullying and the town’s indignation towards Julia are lost in the confusion of opinions and vicissitudes. Mysius, however, never loses his main focus (of family and identity) and fills in the gaps of his writing with an absorbing and hypnotic aesthetic.
Cinematographer Paul Guilhaume (who also collaborated on the screenwriter) uses the misty mountain town to give the film a mystical air and plays with the color palette to communicate the psychological state of his characters. Florentia Di Concilio helps to maintain the mixture of tension, sweetness and mystery that is present in the story, while songs like “Tota Eclipsis Cordis” and “Cuatro Vientos” are used wisely as potential emotions or associated elements of the relationship.
“Five Demons” stands out for its specificity and ability to use ambiguities to strengthen its plots. Léa Mysius dissects a simple story about family and existentialism into an exquisite narrative and a sensitive kaleidoscope, which also further argues that Adele Exarchopoulos is one of the most famous actresses of her generation.
“Los cinco diablos” is now available in theaters in Mexico and will arrive exclusively on MUBI on May 12. Cover photo courtesy of MUBI.