The Five Devils15
We probably take all our senses for granted, going about our days, touching, seeing, smelling, hearing and tasting like there’s no tomorrow. But if you stop and think about it for a second, they’re really impressive super powers.
Taking this notion one step further, with one of these senses at least, is French director Léa Mysius with her second full feature.
Living in a picturesque, rural part of France are couple Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Jimmy (Moustapha Mbengue), with their eight-year-old daughter Vicky (sally Dramé).
Vicky is having a bit of a hard time at school, being bullied by other pupils, but she keeps it to herself, whilst her dad is out being a fireman, and her mum works at a swimming pool, known as The Five Devils.
Although she loves swimming, Joanne actually prefers swimming outside in a nearby lake, and doesn’t care how cold it is. It was one day out by the lake that she learnt that her daughter has an exceptional sense of smell, which takes her completely by surprise.
Not long after the family get a visitor, Jimmy’s sister Julia (Swala Emati), but she’s not exactly welcomed with open arms, especially by Joanne who appears to have some kind of grudge.
Vicky isn’t entirely sure what has happened, but she soon discovers that her keen sense of smell unlocks an ability to look back in the past, where piece by piece, she can work out exactly what happened within the family dynamic. But is she prepared for what the past reveals?
There’s something quietly special about Mysius’ film. It’s a slow yet fascinating burn, as it slowly unfurls before our eyes revealing its magic – literally.
Although it dabbles in the supernatural, it doesn’t promote it heavy-handedly. In fact it’s something that just happens, with very little in the way of explanation, which it has to be said, isn’t actually needed. It gives you just enough to work out all the how’s you need.
It’s certainly helped by an impressive turn by the young Dramé, who despite her years, delivers what is a magical performance in itself. It is, after all, through her eyes that we discover the truth of what happened in this sleepy French village.
It could be argued that the story isn’t as fleshed out as it should be, with a glaring hole in it regarding the use of the memories in the past, and interacting with a certain character in the future not quite adding up, but it shouldn’t be that much of a distraction.
There’s a genuinely pleasing subtlety to it, which you could well imagine would be lacking if Hollywood made the same film.
The Five Devils is surprisingly imaginative, well crafted with some strong performances, and all though the story doesn’t make perfect sense, it’s a pleasure for both the ears and eyes.