VOD film review: The Girl with a Bracelet
Not your usual courtroom drama8
Josh Slater-Williams | On 27, Jun 2020
Director: Stéphane Demoustier
Cast: Melissa Guers, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Anaïs Demoustier
Watch The Girl with a Braclet online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
Adapted from the screenplay of 2018 Argentine film The Accused, writer-director Stéphane Demoustier’s The Girl with a Bracelet transplants the story to France for a colder tonal register. While its title may initially suggest either a period costume drama or a potboiler in the vein of Paula Hawkins, this is a modern courtroom drama and profile of a potential murderer, here a teenage girl. The bracelet of the title ultimately has another meaning, but it mainly references the electronic monitoring device attached to the accused’s ankle while under house arrest.
Two years prior to her trial, then 16-year-old Lise (Melissa Guers) is taken into custody under suspicion of murdering her close friend, Flora, who was found with multiple knife wounds in her bedroom, where Lise had stayed the previous night after a house party. Lise’s parents (Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni) have their concerns with how relatively unfazed Lise has been from the point of arrest on a beach while with her family – captured by Demoustier from afar in an understated opening sequence – to the days leading up to her time in court, but both make sure to have a presence for her trial days where possible.
The now 18-year-old Lise’s perceived passivity extends to her questioning in court by a public prosecutor (Anaïs Demoustier, the director’s sister), with a tendency towards monosyllabic replies and muted acknowledgements that she can’t explain away elements of the case that suggest guilt on her part. She has an apparent motive in that Flora leaked a sex tape of Lise online not long before her death. A knife set has been found with Lise’s fingerprints all over it, with the one missing knife matching the description of the murder weapon. And Lise’s DNA has been found all over Flora’s body, even under the deceased’s nails.
Lise can explain some of this, but those answers, which concern sexual experimentation hitherto unknown to her family, and which Lise considers completely normal, lead to new fixations for the prosecution’s case. Lise’s defence attorney (Annie Mercier) tries to dispel the jury from allowing societal prejudices towards young women’s agency and sexual conduct to influence their interpretation of the evidence.
While major French stars have been cast as her parents, the inscrutability of Guers’ performance is aided by the actor’s newcomer status. With no prior screen credits, there are consequently no previous, potentially more outwardly emotional performances of hers for those well-versed in modern French cinema to draw comparisons to. This helps in allowing the viewer’s own suspicions to continue even past the point late in the game when Lise’s composed appearance drops – whether or not this is a case of Lise herself putting on a performance.
The ambiguous nature of the very last scene of the film is constructed so as to support the thematic spine of moral judgement in conflict with blind justice. Wisely, regardless of the jury finding Lise guilty or innocent, Demoustier never jumps back in time to show us if she really did it or not. Whether justice is served, or what guilt “looks” like, are matters both left lingering.