Tag Archives: Léa Mysius


The Five Devils

by Hope Madden

The magical realism of Léa Mysius’s sophomore feature takes a minute to suss out. Things feel straightforward enough, at least for a time. Although, how can a person miss the magic in Sally Dramé’s little face?

Dramé plays Vicky, and she plays her magnificently. Vicky’s an odd duck, disliked intensely at school but happy as can be accompanying her mother, Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos) to the pool where Joanne is an instructor and lifeguard.

But all is not right at home between Vicky’s parents, and when her dad’s sister Julia (Swala Emati) comes to stay, things really come undone.

Mysius expertly balances family drama with fantastical elements to achieve an emotional honesty about a complex topic. The drama itself borders on melodrama, with backstabbing, coupling and uncoupling, and sexual relations of an almost Greek tragedy sort. Understated performances from the entire cast keep it from devolving into soap opera, but Mysius has something better than that in store.

The time travel magic of the film, limited as it is to the impish Vicky, allows for a childlike innocence, even when the implications of that magic become very dark. Essentially, by straddling soap opera antics and fantasy elements, Mysius can ask more questions about family entanglements than she answers. But the questions she asks are so rarely tackled that leaving them hanging does not feel unsatisfying.

Again, so much of the success of the film sits with the emotionally honest performances. Exarchopoulos once again delivers raw vulnerability that never feels staged. In fact, despite its sometimes lurid narrative meanderings, there is nothing showy about The Five Devils.

This is an unusual film, generous with its characters even as it looks at the selfishness of love, the neediness within family, and the strange battles we fight.

Blood, Sweat and Fears

Stars at Noon

by George Wolf

Just this past summer, Claire Denis explored psychosexual politics with the moving Both Sides of the Blade. Now, she has sex, lies and global politics on her mind, as Stars at Noon examines sweaty intimacies and slippery alliances.

Adapting Denis Johnson’s novel with co-writers Andrew Litvack and Léa Mysius, Denis keeps the Central American setting but shifts the timeline from 1984 to nearly present day. The threat of COVID-19 adds a relatable layer of suspicion to every interaction, in a part of the world where suspicious minds are easy to find.

Margaret Qualley is sensational as Trish, a young woman staying in a low-rent Nicaraguan hotel while working plenty of angles. There isn’t much to back up her claim to be a journalist (despite a late night call to magazine editor John C. Reilly in a wild cameo), and other details about her life are kept brief and ambiguous.

Trish seems to benefit from at least a couple friends in high places, while new friend Daniel (Joe Alwyn delivering some perfectly smoldering mysteriousness) could benefit from at least one person he can trust.

Daniel says he’s in town from London as an oil company consultant, but Trish is quick to let him know he’s become “a person of interest” with some powerful locals.

But how can this silly American girl know what’s what?

Qualley crafts Trish’s disarming persona beautifully, with a performance that shows a new depth to her talent. While the film’s dialog is often precise and enticing, Qualley makes sure Trish’s non-verbal ques do plenty of talking as well. That gives authenticity to Daniel’s seduction, and the dangerous complications that arise when another mysterious stranger (Benny Safdie) makes Trish a tempting offer.

The humidity of the region feels palpable, laying down a subtle air of oppression that pairs nicely with the more surface level dirty dealings while another wonderful score from Denis favorite Tindersticks works its magic.

Denis is in no rush here, and the narrative can meander through some awkward juggling of tones. But the journey of these characters and their moral posturing is always engaging, and Stars at Noon serves a hypnotic cocktail of intrigue mixed with lust, feminine power and cutthroat colonialism.