Garenq’s intensely personal directorial style means we barely leave Marecaux’s side from here on in, as Marecaux’s absolute denial of guilt is consistently and unbelievably ignored. Garenq raises significant questions about the grossly unfair and flawed French legal system that, in this case at least, presumes guilt when it should presume innocence.
In fact, Marecaux’s case is so marred by inadequate, cowboy policing and conflicting witness testimony that one assumes that sooner or later he will taste freedom. Yet as appeals are rejected and a trial date remains elusive, Marecaux begins to crumble. It’s incredibly emotive and galling to witness a proud man fall apart, lurching as he does into ever deeper pits of despair.
It’s desperate stuff and Garenq never once lightens the oppressive tone, as glimmers of hope give way to yet another stumbling block or setback. It’s essentially a deeply depressing indictment of legal injustice, made all the more enthralling and outrageous given the verity of the source material.
Garenq’s direction is tight and accomplished, drawing the audience into Marecaux’s embattled mind, but the real success of Guilty lies with Torreton who delivers a hard-hitting and anguished performance as the tormented Marecaux, effectively capturing his increasing desperation as he becomes rapidly enveloped in a claustrophobic nightmare. It’s a gripping, engaging and masterful piece of acting in an important and powerful piece of filmmaking.
Jean-Marc Moutout’s picture Early One Morning (De Bon Matin) acts a neat companion piece to Guilty, given that it too explores the disintegration of its beleaguered central character.
Paul (a brooding and earnest Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is the veritable grey man, a corporate suit who seems to lack any kind of joy. Moutout’s violent and shocking exposition quickly reveals that Paul has indeed reached the end of his proverbial tether.
Why and how Paul has reached rock bottom is revealed in a series of clever flashback memories, as Paul ponders over what he’s ultimately been driven to. Taking the financial crisis as a backdrop, we soon learn that Paul has been under-performing in his job. He’s full of resentment for his boss who regards him as no better than a cog in the corporate machine and to make matters worse he is usurped from his prestigious post by a young upstart.
Add to that a fractured relationship with his wife, it comes as no surprise that Paul soon seeks solace in the bottle, basking as he does in former glories rather than addressing his problems. Paul is essentially a dinosaur, a throwback to the past. He’s experienced the highs and ridden that wave, but he can’t seem to be able to face up to the ruthless realities of the lows.
As such, Paul comes across as a fractured, intriguing and troubled character. His principled, old school approach to the job demands sympathy, yet his inability to manage his way out of his malaise blights his character with an inherent weakness in a ‘woe is me’, almost pathetic manner.His contemptuous outlook is wholly negative and he becomes far too emotionally involved that eventually he almost contributes to his own demise, spiralling uncontrollably as he does towards an inevitable bloody end.
Darroussin delivers a quite brilliant tortured, helpless and desolate performance as Paul, a man whose emotional disintegration is quite galling to watch, whilst the paucity of score serving to increase the audiences engagement with his increasingly fragile state of mind.
Early One Morning is a captivating insight into one man’s D-Fens-esque meltdown, but it’s also a brutal, timely and relevant piece of social commentary about the brazen and often inhumane way that big business operates.