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— Muhammad Ali, When We Were Kings

MRQE Top Critic

Muscle Shoals

Even if the Muscle Shoals sound isn't on your iPod, you'll like seeing where it came from —Marty Mapes (review...)

Etta sings in Muscle Shoals

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This film’s French title translates as “Presumed Guilty.” And what would you expect from a movie called Presumed Guilty? Having your “injustice” buttons pushed? Overzealous prosecutors? Flimsy evidence? This film has it all in spades.

A bailiff awaits his day in court
A bailiff awaits his day in court

A French bailiff (Philippe Torreton) and his wife (Noémie Lvovsky) are arrested and jailed for molesting children, though they aren’t tried. They are held in prison while they await their day in court. They wait, and they wait, for years. There is proof, they are told, but they aren’t allowed to see it. There is supposed to be video evidence of them committing crimes in Belgium, but the existence of the video is never verified with the accused or their lawyers.

As time progresses, the legal cases of the husband and wife diverge. They are not allowed to speak, and they drift apart. Their families begin to doubt their innocence, and the bailiff begins to lose his grip on his sanity and eventually on his will to live.

Based on the memoir of the real-life bailiff Alain Marécaux, Guilty is an effective, tense thriller and a mildly interesting look at the French justice system. It’s mostly predictable (although the effect of the accusations on the characters can be surprising). Because the story is predictable, the middle act could have used a few more developments to give the story more momentum. Instead the middle act seems to drag out a bit as we await the inevitable conclusion.

Still, for a festival film, Guilty is a refreshingly tense and mainstream thriller; a nice visceral break from the intellectually taxing films usually on display.