Cannes 2023 Review: A Gumshoe Walks in His Brother’s Footsteps in Claude Schmitz’s Mischievous “The Other Laurens”

“What did you expect? James Bond?” Gabriel (Olivier Rabourdin) asks his niece Jade (Louise Leroy) when driving her back home to Perpignan in “The Other Laurens,” where perhaps the backdrop of the Mediterranean coast may suggest a globetrotting spy adventure but its lead character is anything but in loose-fitting beige khakis and a Members Only jacket. He is a private investigator, but writer/director Claude Schmitz implies one that generally doesn’t work very dangerous cases, first seen spying on a couple in bed that is likely married by not to one another, and his ability to be incognito only really happens at the worst times, with his mother believing in her poor health that he’s actually his twin brother Francois when she hands him a prized family heirloom, telling him that his father really wanted him to have it rather than his brother – i.e. him. Jade, however, thinks she has found the right person, or really the only person that can find out what really happened to her father Francois, said to have swerved off the road after a heavy night of drinking and burned in the car, though she suspects foul play.

She’s got reason to be suspicious, as one might be of Schmitz when “The Other Laurens” takes a solid film noir premise and twists it to warped ends, delivering a moody slow burn that resists slickness but holds its share of intrigue. The rich and strange idea of a twin brother tasked with interrogating those who knew Francois and think he’s dead is only lightly touched upon at the start of “The Other Laurens” when there are so many other strings attached to Jade’s arrival at his doorstep in the middle of the night, pleading for his help. When saying Gabriel and Francois hadn’t been close in years, that could mean their income level as much as the distance between them in any other realm and when their mother dies soon after Gabriel learns of Francois’ demise, he learns her bills haven’t been paid in five months and he’s already late on his own credit card payments. The sense of obligation he feels towards Jade isn’t a personal one, but the fact that a trip to Perpignan will help cover costs and if in fact Francois was involved in some shady business, resolving his case may lead to financial clarity.

Although Schmitz goes through the motions of a thoughtfully structured murder mystery, the filmmaker appears more interested in the disappearance that’s happening right in front of the audience’s eyes when Jade gets Gabriel into the world of wealth that her father inhabited and his brother starts unconsciously playing the part for better or worse, both more caring and critical of her as if she were his own daughter and getting more comfortable with the lifestyle that Francois had as a nightclub impresario with a moral flexibility. “The Other Laurens” is at its best when leaning into this transference and it is unusually compelling – not exactly a deadpan comedy, nor perhaps serious enough as a whodunit to keep those expecting one fully engaged as its unkempt protagonist sorts through ineffectual oddballs as potential suspects and the motives more likely to be random whims than some well-plotted scheme. However, there is at least one mastermind at work behind the scenes in Schmitz, who is nothing if not consistent in carrying out the offbeat tone, and if one gets on the film’s wavelength, “The Other Laurens” makes a satisfying case.

“The Other Laurens” will screen at the Cannes Film Festival as part of Directors Fortnight on May 22nd at 9:30 pm at the Theatre Croisette and May 23rd at 11:30 am at the Cinema Les Arcades, 2 pm at the Cinema La Licorne and 4:30 pm at Cinema Le Raimu.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.