The Night of the 12th
by George Wolf
The police work on display in The Night of the 12th (La nuit du 12) is methodical, committed, and sometimes intense. You can say the same about the filmmaking.
Director and co-writer Dominick Moll introduces his latest as a retelling of a “based on true events” unsolved case that still haunts a veteran French police captain. But as he unveils the facts of the investigation in an intimate and calculating manner, Moll deftly brings more universal concerns to the forefront.
Yohan Vives (Bastien Bouillon) rises to Le capitaine after a retirement on the force, and it’s at the going-away party for the retiree that we first glimpse the signs of a generational divide.
Not long after Yohan’s promotion, 21-year old Clara Royer (Lula Cotton-Frapier) is attacked and killed while walking home from a party. And as Yohan digs into the details of the life Clara had been living, he starts to realize that something’s also “amiss” between men and women.
Moll (With a Friend Like Harry…, Lemming, Only the Animals) pulls off a tricky balancing act here. He brings a detached, documentary-like approach to the investigation itself, but adds layers of humanity through Yohan’s growing obsession with the case, and the B story involving an older investigator named Marceau (Bouli Lanners).
Marceau’s marriage is suddenly in serious trouble, and the effect this has on his approach to Clara’s case brings the narrative threads together with a weary resignation. Bouillon and Lanners are terrific leads amid a first-rate ensemble that includes Pauline Serieys as Clara’s grieving best friend and Anouk Grinberg as a sympathetic judge who urges Yohan not to give up on the case.
Cinematographer Patrick Ghiringhelli immerses us in the imposing beauty of the French Alps, while Moll’s Memories of Murder setup gradually adopts a more Cormac McCarthy worldview, but it’s one more focused on how that world views women, young or old.
This is a completely absorbing crime drama, and one that is not afraid to reach beyond its local jurisdiction. By the end of The Night of the 12th, Moll has drawn us into a tragic mystery and left us searching for answers to questions beyond the identity of Clara’s killer.