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Dans la Maison/In the House

8/10

Stars: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Ménochet, Bastian Ughetto, Jean-François Balmer, Yolande Moreau, Catherine Davenier, Vincent Schmitt

Director: François Ozon

Nowadays Kristin Scott Thomas is more familiar from French movies than English-language films. Here she gives a strong, convincing performance in the (relatively) minor role of the wife of a jaded schoolteacher and failed novelist, perfectly and affectingly played by Fabrice Luchini.

Luchini, who has lost interest in his job, becomes hooked on the strange semi-autobiographical essays written by his even stranger 16-year-old pupil Ernst Umhauer who worms his way into a fellow student’s middle-class home under the guise of tutoring the lad and then proceeds mercilessly and later uncomfortably hormone-driven as he becomes obsessed with his pupil’s mother Emmanuelle Seigner…

Director François Ozon never puts a frame wrong in his compelling screen version (freely adapted by Ozon) of the play ‘The Boy in the last Row’ by Juan Mayorga), to create a fascinating and serially gripping blend of deep black comedy – newcomer Umhauer is one of the scariest screen psychopaths since Norman Bates – and increasingly taut thriller which held me right up to the deeply cynical and yet curiously believable ending.

(Cross your fingers and pray that that there will never be an English-language remake: even with the effortlessly bilingual Scott Thomas reporsing her role in her native English, there is no way in my opinion that anyone could improve on Ozon’s original).

Alan Frank

France 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment One/Momentun. Colour.
105 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Mar 2013