France/UK (2008) Dir. Fabrice Du Welz
The young son of wealthy couple Jeanne (Emmanuelle Béart) and Paul Bellmer (Rufus Sewell) goes missing during a tsunami that levelled Thailand while they were setting up an orphanage there. Four years later they see a video of kids being held by Thai criminals and Jeanne, who has never given up hope of finding her son alive, believes she saw him in the video. She persuades her husband to pay off shady local Mr. Gao (Petch Osathanugrah) to guide them to the criminal under belly in the hope of finding their son. However the trip goes awry and the couple find themselves in a remote and sinister rain forest from which there seems little chance of escape.
I admit I watched this film because of the presence of Emmanuelle Béart whose usually radiant presence can make a bad film at least that bit more bearable. Unfortunately this drab horror/chiller/thriller/drama was made when Ms. Béart’s infamous cosmetic surgery on her hitherto sensuous lips had backfired and she was left with a god awful trout pout look (which she now regrets). But don’t assume that this film is being judged on the pulchritude of the leading lady – far from it. Everyone likes a good horror and on paper Vinyan sounds like a decent yarn but the reality is widely different.
If writer/director Fabrice Du Welz was hoping to rely on subtlety to spook the viewer with this effort then he may have been too subtle. Once the set up has been established in the opening few minutes very little happens of any real note or substance until the final ten minutes. Actually, that sounds a little disingenuous as we do witness the tortured parents suffer at the unscrupulous hands of the Thai criminal fraternity, fleecing them of their money and being left high and dry in the middle of nowhere by a dishonest boat man with the duplicitous Mr. Gao.
After weathering horrendous rainstorms and fruitless leads, our protagonists ends up in a dark and desolate part of the country resembling the rain forests of the Amazon, populated by silent mud caked children who hide in trees and throw stones at strangers. Jeanne is convinced her son is among them while Paul has had enough and tries in vain to persuade his wife to end this pointless search but it seems even the threat of her here life is not enough to change Jeanne’s mind.
There is no question that the darkest reaches of Thailand make for a sinister and foreboding location, with its rainy climate, misty veneer and unsettling silence creating a menacing backdrop for a tribe of people time forget to run riot and scare the bejesus out of us civilised folk. However it is being employed in a film that is unequivocally dull and confused. Is it a drama or a horror? It may be both but with so little of note happening until the final minutes, any sense of drama or impending horror is diluted under the ennui of watching our cast revel in their misery at a snail’s pace.
The running time may be just over 90 minutes but it feels twice as long. There are a couple of disturbing scenes very late in the movie when the couple encounter the forest dwellers; they find a hut with an emaciated family who break out in a demonic hysterical laughter as they tease Jeanne with some rice. The ambiguous (symbolic?) ending is also creepy but its too little late.
When you have someone as talented as Emmanuelle Béart in your film she deserves a good script and a meaty role to get her teeth into. She spends a lot of the time staring into space or wandering around in a daze, dour and physically and mentally drained of life. The odd moment gives Béart a chance to convey the pain of Jeanne, as the weight of the disappointment of their search gets to her, and she breaks down into a hysterical mess, otherwise this role could have gone to anyone. Rufus Sewell is also limited here, his shining moment coming during a drunken, halucigenic freak out.
Wasted opportunity is probably the best way to describe Vinyan. It has the potential but it neither scares or interests. If you have ten minutes fast forward to the end otherwise there are plenty of more effective dramas and horror films out there to satiate your hunger.