This instantly gripping French film begins with a wide shot of two police officers arresting a teenage girl on the beach. She doesn’t seem to object or freak out over what’s happening, though an older man whom we rightly presume to be her father becomes more agitated. A couple of scenes later we see the same girl, 17-year-old Lise (Melissa Guers), confined to her stylish family home in a middle-class Nantes neighbourhood with an electronic tagging bracelet around her ankle. She’s been charged with the murder of her best friend, Flora, and is about to stand trial.
Director Stéphane Demoustier then takes us to a functional modern courtroom, where the majority of his masterfully controlled drama based on an acclaimed Argentinian film, 2018’s The Accused, takes place. Lise is accompanied by her supportive but slightly suffocating father Bruno (Roschdy Zem), but not by her taciturn mother Celine (Chiara Mastroianni), who makes the feeble excuse that she has to work. As a well prepared prosecutor (Anaïs Demoustier, the director’s sister) builds an increasingly convincing case against Lise, the teenage girl shows almost no emotion on the stand, playing into our suspicions that she’s either holding something back or worse still: a cold-blooded murderer.
The revelations that follow give Demoustier’s film a welcome contemporary edge. We learn that Lise and Flora fell out a few weeks before the murder when the dead girl posted a video online showing Lise giving a fellow student a blowjob. The prosecutor presents this as Lise’s probable motive for killing her best friend, but because the evidence is circumstantial, if far from flimsy, she needs to persuade the jury that Lise is capable of such a thing. Her case incorporates a not so thinly veiled element of slut-shaming, something which Lise astutely calls out in a rare flash of emotion, and which her lawyer urges the jury not to fall for.
Because it unfolds almost entirely in the courtroom and at Lise’s house, Demoustier’s film could have felt like a superior episode of a legal procedural TV series. What raises it several notches is the absolute precision of Demoustier’s storytelling and the excellence of the performances. In her first ever film role, Guers makes Lise completely convincing as she gradually reveals the vulnerability beneath her impassive exterior. The Girl with a Bracelet is a clever, relevant film which makes you question the way society expects young women to behave.
- Director: Stéphane Demoustier
- Starring: Melissa Guers, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni
- Release date: June 26 (Digital)