Jean Barreau (Julien Vieuloup) leads a mysterious spiritual commune where he promises to help his followers put their pain and tragedy behind them so they can have a second life. With Camille (Alix Vega), Nora (Anne-Sophie Delhomme) and Fred (Gert De la Marche) under his wing, Jean takes them through his programme, and things take a turn for the strange when their doubles arrive at the house ready to take over their lives. As Jean’s followers begin to question their decisions, Jean himself struggles with his own beliefs.
La Deuxieme is an unusual film from writer/director Jelle Stroo. The film explores the idea that people could choose to have another shot at their life by being replaced by their double who looks like them and thinks like them, but doesn’t carry around the pain and tragedy that life has bestowed upon them. Jean is adamant about his teachings, using his powers of persuasion to push his influence on Camille, who is easily swayed by what he has to say. Subsequent arrivals Nora and Fred aren’t as happy to blindly follow Jean as Camille is, which provides a challenge to the commune leader.
Stroo’s film features an intriguing premise and it certainly engages you while you try to understand what is going on and how it’s possible. The first sighting of a double makes you question if the film is still grounded in reality and frustratingly, for me at least, I didn’t feel that it provided an adequate answer. Instead the film presents plenty of questions without much of an attempt to resolve anything. Perhaps the most interesting turn of events comes as Jean reveals his own secret, which I won’t give away here, and that makes you think differently about what you see unfold.
In a strange way the film feels timely and very relevant. Even if I have quibbles about the way the narrative unfolds, the theme of wanting a second chance at life is one that many of us will have felt at one time or another. We’re living in a dark and often scary world, where it feels like many countries are losing their grip so Stroo definitely taps into the social conscious. In Camille, Nora and Fred he has three very different charges that challenge and push him, as well as making him question himself.
Julien Vieuloup is the standout here. As Jean he’s intense and commanding, but he brings some unexpected moments of vulnerability in the film’s second half. There’s no doubt that this is his film but he’s ably supported by Gert De la Marche, Anne-Sophie Delhomme and Alix Vega, who all give thoughtful and restrained performances.
La Deuxieme is a bit of a head-scratcher and it’s pacing, despite only being 78 minutes in length, is fairly slow. The film’s ponderous nature won’t be for everyone and its refusal to give you all the answers may be a cause of frustration for viewers. Stroo’s direction draws out the beauty of the locations and lingers on the characters but it never completely lets you into their world and that left me feeling a little bit cold.
Cast: Julien Vieuloup, Alix Vega, Anne-Sophie Delhomme, Gert De la Marche Director: Jelle Stroo Writer: Jelle Stroo Certificate: TBC Duration: 78 mins Released by: Bureau Delstreau
La Deuxieme screens at Raindance Film Festival as part of the Screamdance strand on Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 8.15pm. Get your tickets now.