The Dunans, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and HélŠne (Carole Bouquet), are on the road from Paris to Tours to pick up their two children. From the beginning, it is an uncomfortable trip, with the unhappy couple sitting on the shards of a broken relationship. HélŠne, we see, is well-studied in the art of polite indifference. From the look on Antoine's clenched face, eyeballs engorged in a quivering stare, he's trying his best not to implode, though it's doubtful all the double scotches he knocks back are going to help. At one particularly hallucinatory point, the wife splits for a train, and Antoine desperately races from town to town trying to find her after learning that a violent escaped convict is on the loose.
Director Cédric Kahn has made a name for himself in France with kinky psychological dramas and pulpy thrillers, and "Red Lights" shows we are in the hands of a very capable entertainer. His film is a gripping thriller that relies less on shock value than well-timed and unexpected surprises. It is also visually engaging, an example of artistry within genre storytelling that is rare enough these days to be somewhat shocking on its own.
The central conceit a pitiful man whose power has been dampened by a capable spouse might seem like the stuff of artful melodrama, but here it is also kept palpable and poignant. Yes, "Red Lights" will keep you engrossed and guessing at every turn, but you'll also be pleased by the little stops and the end of the journey. Wayne Melton
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