The curious link between smell and memory forms the basis of this intriguing — albeit uneven — exploration of the supernatural ties between mother and child. Eight-year-old Vicky (Sally Dramé), daughter of the unhappily married Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Jimmy (Moustapha Mbengue), has a sense of smell so fine-tuned she can identify a catalog of notes in any scent. Smells are so evocative for Vicky that they can also send her hurtling into someone’s past, like her mother’s thorny teenage history with Jimmy’s sister Julia (Swala Emati).
The film makes mostly effective use of its fascinating premise and brilliant (partly non-professional) cast. Set in the glacial Alps, the film dives under icy exteriors to find the tension smoldering between the family and their tight-knit community. Like Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman, it uses time-bending magical realism to articulate the elemental force of maternal bonds and a child’s shock at realizing their parents led a full life before them. It’s less illuminating about its central conceit, though, and some of the less fantastical elements are also underdone, coming off melodramatic in a way that clashes with its overall understatedness. Despite this, The Five Devils is a bewitching watch, particularly in its goosebump-inducing final shot.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Thriller
Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Antonia Buresi, Daphne Patakia, Hugo Dillon, Noée Abita, Patrick Bouchitey, Stéphanie Lhorset
Director: Léa Mysius