With a premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and a selection for the 90th edition of the Oscars, Michaël R. Roskam’s new feature film Le Fidèle seems an instant succes and will be internationally released as Race and The Jailbird. It is a Belgian-French-Dutch co-production by Savage Film, Stone Angels and Kaap Holland Film, shot in and around Brussels with high-level leading actors.
Le Fidèle is a crime film and tells the story about Gino “Gigi” Vanoirbeek (Matthias Schoenaerts), a gangster who falls in love with the rich car racer Bénédicte “Bibi” Delhany”(Adèle Exarchopoulos). He carries a dark secret with him, which he can’t keep from her any longer and which weighs on their relationship.
Like mentioned before in the introduction, Le Fidèle is shot in and around Brussels. That’s why the actors switch to the Brussels’ Flemish accent at times. It is a bilingual film, which adds authenticity and at the same time turns it into a setting example of a true ‘Belgian’ film (not a specifically Flemish one).
Le Fidèle is another proof of the holy alliance between Roskam and Schoenaerts. They’ve worked together before for Rundskop (Bullhead, 2011) and The Drop (2014). Personally, I am a big fan of Matthias Schoenaerts, he is very down to earth and modest, which is reflected in his acting. Both Schoenaerts en Exarchopoulos (who you may know from the French controversial film La Vie d’Adèle) carry this film without any doubt. You cannot miss the natural chemistry between them on screen. All of this is enhanced by a beautiful visual style by DOP Nicolas Karakatsanis (Linkeroever (2008) and Rundskop (2011)) and a serene soundtrack by Raf Keunen to add the just the right amount of drama. Not too little or too much.
The film holds the best of both worlds, namely passionate romance combined with fast cars and action, enough to please all sorts of audience it seems. Nonetheless, I felt more for the visuals than for the rather elaborate narrative. Roskam wrote Le Fidèle based on the classical 3-act structure. This 3 act-structure was originally designed to build up tension and provide a satisfying payoff. The first 2 acts, called ‘Gigi’ and ‘Bibi’ were intriguingly building up the tension. But the turning point in the 3rd act was disappointing and just too much drama. Bibi getting sick on top of it all, just kept me thinking: ‘Why is this necessary?’ Instead, Roskam could have focused more on the fertility aspect, on Bibi and Gigi’s wish to become parents. To conclude, the first two acts were thrilling, but the subplot in the 3rd act made the whole a bit superfluous.
I am honestly glad, that the final long take is that exhilarating and peaceful. It gives you enough time to let it all sink in, not leaving you with a bitter taste. Fans of the genre and of Michaël R. Roskam will definitely love it.
Le Fidèle will be released in Belgium on September 23th.