Review: ‘Cages’

A clever premise is all but wasted in "Cages," an intimate relationship drama that quickly goes off the deep end never to return. "Cages" debuted in Toronto; buzz won't be strong enough to escape fest imprisonment.

A clever premise is all but wasted in “Cages,” an intimate relationship drama that quickly goes off the deep end never to return. Helmer/scripter Olivier Masset-Depasse’s debut feature (after two award-winning shorts) suffers from its own pretensions, finding redemption only in the expert thesping and occasional remembrance of why the story of a woman traumatized into silence and attempting to hold onto her marriage started as an interesting idea. As unbridled in its lensing as in its plot turns, “Cages” debuted in Toronto; buzz won’t be strong enough to escape fest imprisonment.

Mature, confident Eve (Anne Coesens), an emergency services paramedic, is badly injured when her ambulance flips over. The accident leaves her barely able to stammer out one word.

Prior to the incident, Eve had a loving relationship with pub-owner hubby Damien (Sagamore Stevenin). But their marriage changes afterward, and he questions whether she has the will-power to overcome her handicap and communicate once more.

Eve discovers Damien is having an affair with Lea (Micheline Goethals), the beer supplier for his pub, and decides to prove the depths of her love by tying him to their bed. How she hopes to win him back by this method is but one of the pic’s many unlikely twists.

Next, she binds him to a wheelchair, and, after this, Damien decides that forcing Eve to host the pub’s annual animal-calls contest will push her onto the road to recovery.

Logic may not be necessary for a film plot, but Masset-Depasse tips the scales too far into the ridiculous for the characters to survive. As a meditation on the lengths people will go for love, pic fails to connect to genuine emotions, losing character sympathy along with believability (side characters, such as Adel Bencherif’s unnecessarily cruel pub customer, are particularly hollow).

As Eve drags her wheelchair-bound (literally) hubby up a cliff, it’s hard not to see flashes of Bette Davis in Baby Jane.

Film’s style is equally uncontrolled as its plot, as Tomasso Fiorillo’s nervous handheld camerawork calls attention to itself rather than providing insights into the characters’ inner lives.

Helmer would have reaped greater rewards from tying the camera down rather than Stevenin, who gamely tries to make Damien a compelling figure. Coesens, too fine an actress to completely lose auds’ sympathy, supplies the film’s only real emotion in the scenes where she tries to overcome her trauma. Closing scenes at the animal-calls contest have a nightmarish quality that feel part of a different movie altogether.

Cages

Belgium-France

Production

A Versus Production presentation of a Versus Production, Inver Invest, R.T.B.F. Coproductions Cinema, Wallimage, Scope Invest (Belgium)/Les Film Pelleas, Mobilis Prods., CRRAV Nord-Pas-de-Calais (France) production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Jacques-Henri Bronckart. Executive producer, Olivier Bronckart. Co-producers, Philippe Martin, David Thon, Delphine Corniaut, Arlette Zylberberg, Vincent Leclercq. Directed, written by Olivier Masset-Depasse.

Crew

Camera (color), Tomasso Fiorilli; editor, Damien Keyeux; music, Frederic Vercheval; production designers, Jimmy van Steenkiste, Patrick Colpaert; costume designer, Elise Ancion; sound (Dolby SRD), Marc Engels, Marc Bastien, Thomas Gauder. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Oct. 17, 2006. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Visions.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Anne Coesens, Sagamore Stevenin, Micheline Goethals, Adel Bencherif, Nasser Zerkoune, Michel Angely.
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