'First Flight'

Tale of an already fragile family falling apart is too banal for serious drama, not light enough for bedroom farce.

Problems of tone undermine “That Day,” from Swiss helmer Jacob Berger. Tale of an already fragile family falling apart is too banal for serious drama, not light enough for bedroom farce and not sharp enough for satire. Unfolding over one long day, the pic shows events from the perspectives of an unfaithful husband, a betrayed wife and a confused son. Presence of name thesps could lead to modest arthouse play in French-speaking territories. Pic opens in Switzerland later this year.

Main action takes place in the sterile-looking Geneva suburb of Meyrin, amid identical high-rise apartment buildings. Things start with the p.o.v. of radio newscaster and inveterate womanizer Serge (Bruno Todeschini), who stumbles out of bed on a dark, rainy morning, waking his blandly attractive blond wife, Pietra (Natacha Regnier), and young son, Vlad (Louis Dussol). On his way to the office, he stops for a quick cuddle with sexy brunette mistress Mathilde (co-scripter Noemie Kocher, director Berger’s wife).

Driving off in the heavy downpour, Serge hits something with his car. Unable to concentrate on the job, he returns to search the accident site and meetsMathilde; they move to his place for a bout of strenuous sex.

About 25 minutes in, the pic switches to Pietra’s perspective. After riding a crowded bus to the city, she learns a rabid dog is loose in the museum where she works. However, seeing the beast doesn’t stop her from entering the building to find her cell phone — just one of many examples of her self-described “weird” behavior.

Back home, Pietra sees Serge and Mathilde’s crumpled clothing in the hallway and hears heavy breathing coming from the bedroom. She runs out in shock.

Meanwhile, guilt-plagued Serge tries to find information about the hit-and-run victims, lying to a friendly police inspector (Zinedine Soualem) that he’s doing research. Great comic moment has him interrogated by the inspector’s colleagues, who assume he’s a perp.

Vlad’s tale starts near the hour mark, when he notices his father stopping at the neighboring building but doesn’t realize why. The place interests him because it’s home to Manon (Amelia Jacob), a schoolmate he’s got a crush on.

Script makes Serge self-involved and not very likeable, and Pietra pretty much a cipher: Todeschini does his best to supply a wounded animal magnetism, but Regnier is wasted in her role. Kocher’s Mathilde is the warmest, wisest character.

Along with elegant cinematography, eye-catching art direction is the standout tech credit. Particularly fine are the large posters all over the city depicting people in “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” postures.

That Day

Switzerland-France

Production

A Vega Distribution release (in Switzerland) of a Vega Film (Switzerland)/Why Not Prods., Avventura Films (France) production, in association with Swiss Television, ZDF/Arte, Rheingold Films. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne, Germany). Produced by Ruth Waldburger. Co-producers, Josef Steinberger, Gregoire Sorlat, Pascal Caucheteux. Directed by Jacob Berger. Screenplay, Berger, Noemie Kocher.

Crew

Camera (color), Jean-Marc Fabre; editor, Catherine Quesemand; music, Cyril Morin; art directors, Denis Mercier, Roger Martin; costume designer, Nathalie Raoul, Francoise Nicolet; sound (Dolby Digital), Francois Musy, Gabriel Hafner; assistant director, Julien Zidi. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 6, 2007. (Also in Montreal Film Festival -- competing). Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Bruno Todeschini, Natacha Regnier, Noemie Kocher, Zinedine Soualem, Louis Dussol, Amelia Jacob, Hiro Uchiyama, Isabelle Caillat. (French dialogue)
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