Director: David Oelhoeffen
Screenwriters: David Oelhoeffen & Antoine Lacomblez
Running Time: 99 mins
French Film Festival Screening Times:
For his first feature-length film, writer/director David Oelhoeffen lends another story to the massive collection of French films about family. Being personal yet universal, family seems to be a safe theme on which a new filmmaker can cut his teeth. Got a story about absent parents? Great! In Your Wake is one of those, about a blue-collar father and son reunited after an undetermined period of time.
Twenty-year-old dishwasher Marco (Nicolas Giraud), is a decent young man, the kind of ordinary guy who likes sports, cars, and women, and doesn’t have a whole lot to say, but knows the difference between right and wrong. He’s happy to be reunited with his father, Gabriel (Jaques Gamblin), whose slick appearance and smooth talking slightly reek of manipulation. The two hang out at clubs and get reacquainted, when Gabriel proposes the great idea of opening a bar with his son. But first, there’s a dubious matter of money that Gabriel is “owed”, and before you know it, Marco finds himself an accomplice to a crime in a desolate warehouse block. The tense and predictable story explains very little about the family, and the mother appears very briefly, offering the viewer few reasons to invest emotionally in these mostly unpleasant characters. It’s a real shame, because the absent parent motif offers so much in the way of emotional discovery, but Oelhoeffen’s ideas of this do not translate successfully.
David Oelhoeffen’s debut feature is tough viewing - an intense, humourless, bleak episode, In Your Wake is held aloft by particularly strong performances by Gamblin and Giraud, who do as much as they can with a weak script. When it comes to films such as this, the opinions tend to go two ways, so take your pick - “gritty social realism” or “hopelessly boring”.