TIFF 2021 Review: The Devil Wears White in Fabrice du Welz’s Delicious Thriller “Inexorable”

The moment “Inexorable” becomes a Fabrice du Welz film comes around a half hour in as Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi), a young woman who seems to have found the success she wanted inveigling herself into the affairs of Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey), a French publishing magnate, and her husband Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde), the author of a massively popular first novel waiting for the inspiration for a second, and rewards herself by pounding herself in the face with a stocking full of cans. Bathed in red light, there is some degree of pleasure in the punishment when the resulting black eye is all part of a grander plan, giving the impression that she’s a weakling when she plans to take away everything from the family that has just moved into a palatial country home with their claim on the land as far as the eye can see.

“Inexorable” can be seen as something of an event when its leading man Poolvoorde, who has found a steady career in comedies and historical dramas, makes a rare return to the terrain of his breakthrough role in the 1992 molotov cocktail “Man Bites Dog,” with the film promising an additional bit of time travel in taking audiences back to a time when “The Crush” and “Poison Ivy” were accepted forms of popular entertainment. It turns out Du Welz, a provocateur since his harrowing 2004 debut “Calvaire,” has exactly the right temperament to take on the genre that largely went extinct before his time, offering bold stylistic flourishes to accompany the wild swings the delightfully lurid story takes as Gloria gradually tightens her grip on the family with no one being the wiser about what control she has over anyone else.

Dipping into fiery, oversaturated red whenever passions run high, the hothouse thriller begins humbly enough with Jeanne taking pity upon the poor girl she sees at her gate, already having hired one babysitter to look after her daughter Lucie, but able to afford two if it gives her that warm feeling of generosity. Gloria may present herself as an orphan, saying her mother and father died in a car accident and never had a home of her own as a foster kid, but she knows her way around parents – what they tell each other and what they don’t — and despite Jeanne and Marcel appearing as if they have a solid relationship, she starts finding the cracks to exploit, guided by knowledge that begin to provide hints to the audience as to why she’s picked this particular family to prey on.

No one in the film is an innocent, not even the prepubescent Lucie who instantly sees Gloria as the sister she never had, perhaps sensing the same capacity for mischief making, and working from a devious script he wrote with Joséphine Darcy Hopkins and Aurélien Molas, Du Welz fashions a tale of vengeance where no bad deed is left unpunished, except for those offscreen who can’t help but delight in its many guilty pleasures. “Inexorable” may tell of a family that’s lived by the book, but it’s safe to say this deliciously nasty piece of work does not.

“Inexorable” does not yet have U.S. distribution.