‘The Girl with a Bracelet’ is a Quiet Look at Courtroom Drama

by Roni Cooper

Accused of murdering her best friend, Lise (Melissa Guers) is arrested whilst spending time with her family at their beach house. Two years later, she is placed on trial; The Girl with a Bracelet follows the events at the courthouse, and the impact they have on her family.

An incredibly quiet movie, The Girl with a Bracelet avoids any last-minute dramatic revelations in court, family screaming matches, or tearful confessions. Somberly played by Guers, Lise herself is controlled and distant (we are later told that she has become withdrawn following the murder), and whilst the various members of her immediate family react differently to the ordeal, they are all plagued by the fatigue the last two years have brought them.

This makes for an interesting set-up to explore the effects the initial investigation and subsequent trial can have on a family — mother, father, daughter, son — and this avenue is pursued, but only to an extent. The father, Bruno (Roschdy Zem), is firm in his decision to attend the trial, whilst mother Céline (Chiara Mastrioanni) does not. Bruno is clearly not happy with her choice, whilst their daughter does not seem to be able to care less; yet, any discussion the parents might have had regarding the matter has already happened before we get to them.

In fact, many elements of the family drama seem to have already transpired between the time of the arrest and when we rejoin the characters two years later, so there is little to no dramatic tension in the household. Strangely, The Girl with a Bracelet seems to want to focus on the actual court proceedings themselves, taking a more factual and strategical approach. We know almost nothing of the case prior to the hearings, so facts unfold when the lawyers question those on the stand. This does make the film somewhat gripping, but with one minor flaw: whilst these characters know exactly what has transpired and what evidence they have been given, we do not, and some information could easily slip through the cracks if we’re not paying close enough attention.

But perhaps this is the point. Whether or not Lise is guilty is entirely up to the viewer, as one can weigh the evidence as the story plays out, almost like an interactive experience. This method is often (intentionally) frustrating; the prosecutor, played by Anaïs Demoustier has a job to do, and that can sometimes wander into comments far too personal for a court case. Meanwhile, Lise does little to help her situation in trying to establish her innocence, but this enhances the experience.

Without being showy or grandiose, The Girl with a Bracelet does well as a courtroom drama, despite there being little in the way of dramatics. It’s a purposefully ambiguous piece of work, but all the better for it — a chance for the audience to debate the outcome and present their arguments as they see fit.

The BFI London Film Festival runs October 2-13. Visit the official website for more info.

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