Actors: Adele Haenel, Catherine Deneuve, Guillaume Canet
Director: Andre Techine
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Run Time: 116 minutes
Some of the relevance in the true-crime narrative of In the Name of My Daughter may be lost on those who have not followed the ongoing French murder case, which returned to the courts even as the film was being completed. This may have made this a hard sell for international audiences, but it was lack of excitement and relatable characters which caused this movie to fail for me as entertainment, far more than relevance. Filmmaker André Téchiné does his best to theorize answers to the mystery and fleshes out the characters involved with this process, but the result is as unsatisfying as it is unsavory.
Based on a missing person case ripped from the headlines, In the Name of My Daughter spends most of the running time just setting up the situation which led to the disappearance. This sets up numerous strands of the narrative which become somewhat irrelevant by the time we jump forward 20 years to the actual court case, despite being far more interesting than what we are left with. When Agnés Le Roux (Adéle Haenel) returns home to the South of France after her divorce, she distances herself from her mother’s thriving casino business to open a small bookstore instead. Renée (Catherine Deneuve) is struggling to keep the Palais de la Mediterranée casino from the mafia and her competition, and looks to her shareholder daughter’s vote to retain control.
All of this sets up the scenario, but the real focus of the film is the relationship Agnés develops with a lawyer working as an advisor for her mother. Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) appears non-threatening and trustworthy, though his mistress warns Agnés that he is not trustworthy. Even the knowledge that Maurice intends to openly date other women, Agnés becomes enamored and eventually falls in love. This portion of the narrative might simply result in a sad tale of heartbreak if it weren’t for the added elements of money. Knowing how valuable her voting shares are for Renée’s casino, Maurice manipulates Agnés in a way that ensured he was the prime suspect upon her disappearance.
Perhaps the largest cause for inability to enjoy In the Name of My Daughter came from the fact that I am not French; not only did the true story lack any relevance for me, it has a tone which is far more casual than I imagine most American directors would have used to approach the material. Even in Téchiné’s choice to use the facts as a loose starting point, there is no urgency behind the mystery at the center of the film. Whatever he decided was necessary to insert, it was not suspense.
The Blu-ray release includes a Q&A with Guillaume Canet and the film’s theatrical trailer. The film itself is picturesque enough to take advantage of the high definition presentation, though this is primarily due to the Nice setting.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10