A mother’s love begins to smother the object of its affection in “Barrage,” a subtle, but ultimately over-soft, portrayal of an intense woman afraid of losing her teenage son to his first romance. Low-budgeter mistakes ponderousness for significance and, though it generally works as a character study, overall yarn is too transparent to be suspenseful or prevent auds from jumping ahead. Pic is certain to find friends at international fests seeking Gallic flavor, but its lack of dynamism will be a barrier to international distribution.
After a day in which she dispenses advice on contraception to first-time teenage client Lydie (Anais Demoustier), thirtysomething medical counselor Sabine (Nade Dieu) picks up her teenage son, Thomas (Hadrien Bouvier), from school and drives him to the new house she’s bought as a surprise.
Perched on a tranquil river in the countryside and overlooking a sluice, the residence is picture-postcard stuff and a million miles from the bustle of city life. However, for a teenage Parisian male with raging hormones, it’s more like exile. After his initial anger, Thomas adapts to the inconvenience of having to rely on his mother for transport; with the help of a part-time job on a construction site, he maintains a semblance of independence.
Mother and son generally settle into their new rural life. However, Sabine’s peace is disturbed when Thomas introduces his (apparently first) girlfriend — Lydie, the girl who consulted Sabine about teenage sex at pic’s outset.
Thomas soon finds himself caught between battle lines. While Lydie’s reactions have the logical willfulness of adolescence, the older Sabine moves from maternal to manipulative to malicious. In an effort to keep her son exclusively to herself, Sabine begins to lie about her first meeting with Lydie, claiming the girl confessed to having multiple lovers.
Moody perfs from the main cast plausibly convey the temperament of the piece, but lackluster pacing undermines the intentions of first-time writer-director Raphael Jacoulot. Some supernatural red herrings are just as deceitful to auds as Sabine’s lies are to Thomas, and ultimately do a disservice to the narrative.
Dieu is competent as Sabine, but provides little beyond the script’s limited opportunities. Grainy, gray lensing by Benoit Chamaillard supplements the atmosphere, and other tech credits are solid. Abundance of cello music feels cliched.