Alléluia Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Music Box Films
Directed by Fabrice Du Weiz
Written by Fabrice Du Weiz and Vincent Tavier
2014, 93 minutes, Not rated
Film released on July 17th, 2015
Lola Dueñas as Gloria
Laurent Lucas as Michel
Héléna Noguerra as Solange
Édith Le Merdy as Marguerite
Anne-Marie Loop as Gabriella
Stéphane Bissot as Madeleine
Gloria is a single mother working as a morgue attendant with virtually no social life. Her friend pressures her to try online dating and she reluctantly agrees to meet a man named Michel for lunch. He is a successful shoe salesman and is everything Gloria needs in a man. She is quickly seduced by his charms and taken to bed within hours of meeting him. The next day, Michel is in a financial bind due to complications at work and Gloria is more than happy to lend him some cash. He accepts the money and disappears before she even realizes he’s leaving. She doesn’t like the idea of being used and tracks Michel down to a nightclub where he is running a similar game on another woman. He confesses to being a con-artist, working a grift on lonely women. Gloria decides life with Michel is better than without and agrees to become his partner in crime. She abandons her daughter with the friend who played matchmaker and is now free to travel with her new boyfriend on endless romantic adventures.
The plan is simple. Michel will find, seduce and marry lonesome women. Gloria will pretend to be his devoted sister and live with them. Not long after the wedding, a tragic accident will leave Michel a widower and all they have to do is claim the inheritance money. Gloria knows and understands this plan perfectly, but has a problem with jealousy and loses control when she sees these horrible women clinging to her man. Michel does his best to reassure her that his actions are merely pretend, and each time Gloria swears she can control herself. This unlikely couple is doomed from the start if one half of the team makes his living by running away from commitment. For whatever reason, Gloria is blind to Michel’s nature and will do anything to remain the focus of his affection. He is a willing accomplice, but it is never implied that murder was ever a part of his agenda until she came along. What follows is a series of scenarios that grow increasingly brutal and tragic until the inevitably bleak finale.
Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz (Vinyan) continues to prove himself a talented filmmaker with his latest title Alléluia, a dark and twisted love story. His script, co-written by Vincent Tavier, is a stylized account of two people learning the importance of not only finding love, but controlling the need to be loved in return. Their tale is one of soul-mates trapped in a downward spiral in a loose retelling of The Honeymoon Killers (1969) (which itself was inspired by the notorious “Lonely Hearts Killers” of the 1940s). Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse (Amer) delivers a colorful landscape influenced by the characters’ emotional state. Working closely with Du Welz, they create a tone that shifts from a naturalistic palette to one of exaggerated colors and framing compositions during some of the more defining moments.
Lola Dueñas (Volver) completely dominates this film as Gloria, the woman more comfortable around the dead than the living. She is so obsessed with creating a new life with Michel that she somehow walks away from her own daughter as if under a pied piper’s trance. Dueñas brings confidence to her performance that allows her to appear both dowdy and emotionally immature as the volatile Gloria. Gloria deliberately dresses down so as not to spark reaction from their potential victims. She remains likeable, however, in that all of her poor decisions are made in the desperate need for acceptance. The only sour note to her character (besides multiple acts of murder) not covered by this emotional umbrella is the abandonment of her child.
It is unclear why Michel keeps Gloria around besides using her as an accomplice for the ruse to attract women. He is not physically capable of handling violence, as he suffers (conveniently timed) headaches that can only be soothed by Gloria. These may or may not be genuine, but allowing the benefit of the doubt, this underscores the codependent nature of their relationship. Laurent Lucas (Calvaire) matches Dueñas’ strengths as an actor as he brings credibility to Michel’s actions even if his motivations remain murky. It is fun to watch him seduce his female targets and his performance is even stronger in the moments when calming an emotionally distraught Gloria. Michel is an oddly superstitious and compulsive character that follows a specific ritual when targeting the next lonely lady, so it is bizarre that he would accept a partner unless he was truly in love with her. By the time he realizes how unpredictable and dangerous Gloria is, he is no longer in a position to stop her.
Alléluia is certain to split audiences and critics, but for those interested in a dark character study with a murderous twist, this is definitely worth checking out. I first came across this movie at the Nashville Film Festival, where it shared the Graveyard Shift Grand Jury prize for best picture. It is a French language film with English subtitles, and it is currently playing a limited theatrical release thanks to the people at Music Box Films.