Persecution (2009)

A strong performance by Romain Duris can’t quite lift Patrice Chereau’s faltering final film about the incommunicability and anxiety of human relationships. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dir. Patrice Chereau
2009 | France | Drama | 98 mins | 2.35:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be at least M18 for sexual scenes and nudity

Cast: Romain Duris, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jean-Hugues Anglade
Plot: Daniel, the disheveled, tormented young Parisian at the film’s center, is adored by his long-suffering lover Sonia, clung to by his emotionally needy best friend, and stalked by a mysterious admirer who invades Daniel’s space and suddenly professes his love.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion & Queer Lion (Venice)
International Sales: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

The first thing that struck me about Romain Duris is that he looks like a French Gael Garcia Bernal, and judging by his strong performance as Daniel in the late Patrice Chereau’s final film, Persecution, that comparison feels valid. 

His co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg is a more familiar name to me, owing to her work with Lars von Trier.  (In fact, she starred in von Trier’s controversial Antichrist in the same year.) 

Persecution is only my first introduction to Chereau, who had been a festival favourite for much of his filmmaking career.  It is not a particularly strong film and meanders too much in its depiction of human relationships.  At the end of it, I don’t feel like I’ve reaped anything meaningful, though I appreciate the raw, emotional performances on show. 

Apart from Gainsbourg’s Sonia who is Daniel’s on-off girlfriend, there are two more supporting male characters—one, a long-time but annoying friend of Daniel; and another, a stranger who is gay and stalks Daniel. 

As a result, there is some suspense and mystery in the first act, but Chereau’s film is more accurately a low-key drama about the incommunicability and anxiety of living—and more crucially, exploring issues of relationship commitment and tolerance. 

Daniel is easily irritable (but is he ever tolerant?), and Duris’ performance captures his demeaning and flustered personality with aplomb.  Chereau’s excitable camerawork also creates enough energy to sustain interest, but the film ultimately falters in its quest to get to somewhere, a place that never seems to come for the audience or characters. 

Grade: B-


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