Thursday 12 October 2017

London Film Festival 2017 - So Help Me God by Yves Hint & Jean Libon

Unlike the heavy hitters of the festival circuit such as Cannes and Venice, the London Film Festival has a much wider selection of films, serving as a digest of the best films shown in various festivals of the year, including some lesser knowns one and real discoveries.

A fly on the wall documentary by the team behind Belgian TV sensation Striptease,  So Help Me God follows a middle-aged female judged in her day to day work, as she tackles some of the most unusual and brutal cases, including a cold case involving some savage murders.

Despite So Help Me God being a documentary, its main "lead", judge Anne Gruwez won best actress special mention at the San Sebastian Film Festival earlier in the year. Yes, you've read it right, despite it being a documentary, and this is one of the main problem of this film, for all its qualities.

The directing duo has too much experience to "direct" the main character, and their decades of experience should ensure the protagonists act naturally. It is therefore very unfortunate that Anne Gruwez spends most of her time seemingly acting for the camera. Considering the harshness of her day to day duties (threats and the gutter of human condition are routinely faced), one has to wonder if his comical, seen it all/I'll laugh at anything facade is a mere defence mechanism. All the same, it quickly grates, (especially when in her office), and she only seems to forget this act while out on the field.

We are given zero information about the cases she deals with, and are left putting the pieces together, which while is the usual modus operandi of its directors, is frustrating at times in this particular film, especially since there are no follow ups and context. A family whose generations of consanguinity has left them with obvious issues makes us laugh almost despite ourselves, and a plump dominatrix describing her most unusual requests in the same deadpan way a teach would describe her unruly teacher is amusing enough. Still, while entertaining and an eye-opener at times, So Help Me God does not feel particularly insightful.

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