An elliptical examination of how the inexplicable murder of a child ricochets through other lives, “Dissonances” revisits a crime from three points of view, in self-contained and cross-illuminating chapters. Level of craft is considerable, but story, distilled from a 500-page novel written as a monologue, is ultimately a character-driven mood piece spread over 15 years rather than a puzzle whose disparate pieces finally come together. A must for Jacques Gamblin completists, pic is a valiant but flawed addition to the pool of melancholy films in which ordinary lives are forever transformed in an irrevocable instant.
Nat (Gamblin) is driving along a highway with his young daughters — Julie, 6, and Margo, 9 — in the back seat. Unprovoked, a white pick-up truck pulls alongside and two shots are fired. Julie is hit. Unhinged, Nat later takes justice into his own hands and is sent to prison for attacking the presumed perpetrators.
Second self-contained segment follows police detective Henry (Didier Flamand), who was at the hospital the day Nat brought in the mortally wounded Julie. Final segment shows how now-adult older sister Margo (Berenice Bejo) was affected.
Peppered with missed opportunities and stubborn devotion, tale is dense, emotionally charged and haunting in its particulars but ultimately too scattered, leaving too many loose ends. Manner in which narrative juggles time — saga spans 1987 to the present — is ambitious overall but wobbly in places, leading to frustration for viewers who buy into the intrigue only to be stranded on crucial points.
Shot in just 20 days, with South Africa representing French-speaking Canada, pic features excellent performances by adult leads, with Gamblin, in particular, who socks across his character’s obsessive behavior.