The directorial debut of actor Eric Caravaca, Le Passager is a little known French film which has done some business on small festival circuits. The difficulty I had finding any information on it whilst researching for this review is a sure testament to its miniature status.
The film concerns Thomas, who has just returned from Paris to the town he grew up in in order to claim the body of his brother Richard. Remaining there to sell the house they mutually inherited from their parents, he checks into a motel run by a woman (Jeanne) once romantically engaged with Richard; his familial tie unknown to her. Getting to know her and her makeshift family, particularly her Godson who yearns for escape from this world of rurality, Thomas begins to see the life his alien brother may have lived.
In Le Passager, Caravaca is on top form as the unwilling sibling forced to hang around the town he bears almost no affection for anymore. It is clear from very early on that the relationship between his brother and him was one of strain and irregular interaction, his occasional considerations of Richard's death more curious than emotional. Caravaca manages this well, carrying the relationship solely with his facial expressions. The strangely tense relationship which we see developing between Thomas and Jeanne is compelling, though not nearly as much as the friendship which comes into play between him and the Godson. Theirs is an intriguing dynamic, and one of the film's best facets to offer; the boy's idolisation of this mysterious figure leading the film solidly. On the negative side, the film never reaches the emotional climax it should, its escalating elements failing to attain the cathartic denouement it promises. As a result, we leave with a feeling of dissatisfied disappointment, though its ending is satisfactory.
Le Passager, by the time the credits roll, feels as though it has been unsuccessful in delivering what it could have. Though this is a real shame, the journey along the way is an entertaining one. Benefiting from a considerable realism, this is certainly not a bad film.
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