La Nuit du 12 opens with a chilling scene: as a young woman leaves a party at night and walks back home, she gets accosted by a stranger who splashes her with gasoline before setting her on file. From this chilling crime that is based on a true story, Dominik Moll (Lemming) has created a patient police drama, weaving in several social topics in the process. Get good intentions don't always make a good film.There is a lot to admire in La Nuit du 12. Avoiding any sensationalism and depicting he frustration due to the lack of resolution that haunts the police inspector on the case, Yohan Vivès (Bastien Bouillon), as it attracts less and less attention and with the risk of being abandoned looming large, the director delve into issues of fair justice, domestic abuse and violence towards women. Unfortunately it does not make for a particularly riveting or even involving viewing experience.
Bastian Bouillon is sadly at fault although one has to wonder how much of the fault lies with the direction given. Trying to convey that underlying frustration and feeling of injustice in a man struggling to keep it together result in the actor making the same expressionless face the entire running time. This kind of understated acting can work and it should have suited the narrative development of the character except that here it just falls flat and does not yield any emotional payoff.
Not every investigative film can be Zodiac and the realistic lack of progress is also a narrative hindrance, once audiences get the idea that the investigation is going nowhere, well, it goes nowhere...
Dominik Moll is more successful when it comes the highlighting how pervading mysogyny and violence against women still are in society, from a blood curling in which a young man and potential suspect has the most unexpected reaction to the heinous crime being depicted to him, to a subplot involving yet another suspect, a violent man in a relationship with a seemingly intelligent and independent woman who lets her life be taken over by him.
Well intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying, La Nuit du 12 might have worked better as an issue TV film than on the big screen.
Review by Laurent de Alberti
Star rating: ★★☆☆☆
Official Selection, Cannes Premières
La Nuit du 12. France/Belgium 2022. Directed by Dominik Moll. Staring Bastien Bouillon, Anouk Grinberg...