Though it's set within the French Riviera's casino wars of the 1970s, it might be something of a spoiler to say that "In the Name of My Daughter," Catherine Deneuve's seventh feature with director André Téchiné, is a true-crime story. For most of its running time, it's a tripartite character study, dry but oddly alluring. Then the director switches gears and takes a 30-year leap to a murder trial.
None of it is quite satisfying, especially when old-age makeup takes center stage. But striking moments develop along the way, jolts of weird joy and melancholy as menace gathers under the Mediterranean sun.
Boardroom power plays define the central triangle: Renée Le Roux (Deneuve), the widowed owner of one of the largest casinos in Nice; her rebellious daughter, Agnès (Adèle Haenel), newly divorced and eager to break away from the family business; and Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), Renée's lawyer-factotum and the man who comes between them.
The ever-watchable Deneuve's steeliness serves her role well. Renée may be the picture of gentility in her platinum-blond tresses and jewel-bright get-ups, but she has the backbone to resist a Mafia-backed rival with designs on her Palais. She's outmaneuvered only when her daughter and Maurice join forces.
At first grabbing the screen with a bracing toughness, Haenel's Agnès grows off-putting as her affair with the charmless Maurice — a problematic role that Canet lends no nuance — becomes an adventure in humiliation. As to the still-unsolved disappearance that emerges, Téchiné has said he was determined not to incriminate the accused party. Instead, he circles the mystery, leaving a frustrating void at the center of his would-be thriller.
"In the Name of My Daughter"
MPAA rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language. In French with subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Royal, West L.A.