Title: Nobody Else But You
Director: Gerald Hustache-Mathieu
Starring: Jean-Paul Rouve, Sophie Quinton, Guillaume Gouix, Arsinee Khanjian, Olivier Rabourdin, Clara Ponsot
Quirky but never false, French import “Nobody Else But You,” from writer-director Gerald Hustache-Mathieu, is a terrifically involving murder mystery that invests in psychological parallelism, and a kind of dark, fated bond between victim and investigator. Traversing pulpy territory, but largely with a tenderness and intelligence matched only by its crisp characterizations, the film’s droll grip loosens in the third act, under the weight of some metaphorical highlighting, but there’s still plenty of enjoy here for arthouse and mystery fans alike.
Beset by writer’s block, Parisian crime novelist David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) hears on the news of a strange death in the small, snowy town of Mouthe, nestled up against the Swiss border. Intrigued, he sets out to learn more about Candice Lecouer (Sophie Quinton), a pin-up gal, cheese spokesmodel and regional celebrity who’s been found buried in the snow. While the local police chief (Olivier Rabourdin) is quick to label it a suicide, Rousseau isn’t so sure. After he sneaks into the morgue, he seems to hear Candice’s voice; later he breaks into home and reads her diaries, but finds crucial entries leading up to the date of her death missing. Eventually, Rousseau finds a friend, in sensitive cop Bruno Leloup (Guillaume Gouix), for some his theories. But the more he digs into Candice’s life, the more tangled her web of sadness and deceit becomes.
Hustache-Mathieu uses Marilyn Monroe as his template for the blonde Candice (who was born Martine Langevin, and a redhead), and delves into the same crippling lack of self-esteem and prescription pill abuses that would fell that actress. He invests deeply in his victim, including occasional narration from her (hardly a new device, but still an effective one), and as a result “Nobody Else But You” has an uncommonly strong emotional pull for such a relatively simple and straightforward plot. Part of this certainly owes to the lead performances, which are tender and finely attuned things; Rouve in particular has expressive eyes that convey reservoirs of latent connection.
As the movie progresses, however, its woozy hold starts to dissipate. Some of the vagaries of Candice’s story are filled in in a fashion that, albeit clever, traces a yellow highlighter back and forth under the phrase “allegorical significance.” Less is more, yet Hustache-Mathieu — tips of the hat to “The Misfits” and Monroe’s breathy birthday performance to John F. Kennedy notwithstanding — seems overly beholden to cutesy plotting that ties things up with a pretty, neat bow.
Still, there’s so much to like here about the packaging that it’s hard to levy too many demerits. Akin to “Twin Peaks” and “Fargo,” two thematic antecedents name-checked in press materials, the movie also makes fantastic use of its environs. Stylishly shot by cinematographer Pierre Cottereau against the backdrop of Eastern France’s wintry landscapes, “Nobody Else But You” is a film that’s at once forlorn and hopeful, unfolding in a space that seems real and familiar, yet also a bit off-kilter and dreamlike. If it’s a candle in the wind, it flickers some, but doesn’t get blown out.
Written by: Brent Simon