Bastards (18)

This sordid tale purports to be a revenge drama with a brother returning home from the sea to re-enter his dysfunctional family and solve the mystery of his brother-in-law’s death.

Marco (Vincent Lindon) will eventually sell everything he owns and even cash in his life insurance as he caves in to pressure from sister Sandra to hit back at LaPorte, her late husband’s business partner and the man she blames for running the family business into the ground.

Of course the husband is dead, having jumped from a building. And Sandra herself can barely communicate what it is that is wrong with her daughter. But everything points to Laporte. And Marco does the dutiful thing: he pursues him.

This new film from Claire Denis – the title seemingly refers to those who prey on others less fortunate than themselves – picks away at the idea of the family unit and sets up good guy Marco as the patsy.

Why should he give up his life – he captains oil tankers – to return to something he escaped long ago? And what is it that Sandra is not telling him?

Denis scatters the film with flashbacks, fantasy sequences, dreams and elliptical moments that suggest a deeper, darker solution to Sandra’s accusations. Maybe a clue lies in her daughter’s situation: she’s been sexually abused. The police are appalled. Marco is staggered and out of his depth.

Or perhaps the answer will come from Raphaelle (Chiara Mastroianni), Laporte’s much younger lover, with whom he has a son. Against a noirish backdrop are such possibilities played out. The solution when it comes is deeply disturbing.

Star rating: ***

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