“That Day” [“1 Journée”] is the story about a dysfunctional family and how one haphazard encounter becomes the turning point towards a new beginning. It’s a convoluted mosaic, a mystery actually, that slowly takes shape and reveals much about the perplexity, sadness and irony of their disconnected lives. It is an insightful film driven by solid acting and direction.
The story unfolds from three perspectives. Serge (Bruno Todeschini) a radio journalist and habitual womanizer leaves the bed of his meek-eyed attractive wife, Pietra (Natacha Regnier), checks on his young son, Vlad (Louis Dussol) and then on the way to work stops for a quickie at his sexy mistress Mathilde (Noemiie Kocher) living in a nearby high-rise apartment building. Continuing to work in heavy rain, Serge hits something and checks the street for the body. He finds nothing except a part torn from his car. Yet he assumes the worse and senses breathing coming from behind a thick roadside hedge. He calls out but no one answers. Thus begins his ordeal with accountability. At work Serge is distraught, unable to concentrate, and returns to the accident site believing he has hurt someone. On the street he meets up with Mathilde and at his apartment they have unrestrained sex.
The perspective then switches to that of the wife, Pietra and time rolls back to the beginning of the story. She lives a bland life, feeding her son, taking him to school, and then travels to work on a crowded bus. The ride is indicative of her wanting to connect with the people around her, yet something holds her back. When an Asian man misses the bus, she feels his anguish yet is unable to bring herself to tell the driver to stop. At the museum where she works they tell her it’s closed because a rabid dog is loose inside. She wants to go inside to get her cell phone but is told instead to go home. Yet she uses a side entrance to retrieve her phone and on the way out of the museum hears the sound of a dog moving about. When they meet up, they connect in an almost human way, and her attempt to lead the dog to freedom is disrupted by guards. She goes home and finds Serge and Mathilde’s tossed clothing in the hallway, then hears their passionate breathing coming from the bedroom. She runs out of the building in shock. When the mistress leaves, Pietra follows and finds that she lives in the adjacent building. Pietra returns to the apartment, throws the bedding from the high balcony then packs and leaves.
Meanwhile, guilt-ridden Serge looks for information about any hit-and-run victims. At the police station, he talks to a friendly police inspector (Zinedine Soualem) and pretends to be doing research for a radio show. When he surrenders himself, the police inspector is skeptical. Where is the body?
The son’s perspective again goes back to the beginning when he awakes and watches his father drive off and then park at a nearby apartment building. The building is where a schoolmate on which he has a crush lives and whose mother, later revealed, is Mathilde.
Each of these perspectives places us inside the minds of these characters and shows us how the truth has many colors; it’s not all black and white nor right or wrong. It also demonstrates how in our over-secured world an accident can disrupt our complacency, illuminate our predicament and help us reconnect with those we truly love. There are no loose ends in this film and when the end arrives, the many elements of this mosaic come together and present a rewarding and enlightening ending, one that continues pleasantly in our minds.
Direction and cinematography aptly capture the character’s inner turmoil as well as their sterile detachment. The acting is nicely underplayed permitting the character’s internal story to take center stage. These are not store-bought characters but complex, engaging ones that drive the story forward with weighted energy. Tech credits are first-rate and nicely complement the mood and tone of this insightful film.
“That Day” [1 Journée] stars Bruno Todeschini, Natacha Regnier, Noemie Kocher, and Zinedine Soualem. Directed by Jacob Berger, written by Jacob Berger and Noemie Kocher, camera: Jean-Marc Fabre. Film is 95 minutes long and in French with English subtitles. Unrated. Reviewed at the American Film Market, Santa Monica. Available on DVD at Amazon under the title “1 Journée.” You need multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player to view.