“A Shadow of Doubt” is a riveting exploration of how a father’s presumed abuse of his young daughter destroys each member of a middle-class French family , and how society deals with incest. Director Aline Issermann’s carefully observed characters are consistently engrossing, and her story well told. “Shadow” will interest distribs looking for a treatment of this delicate theme that can reach larger audiences.
Alexandrine (Sandrine Blancke) is a sensitive, quiet 11-year-old who appears strangely afraid of her father (Alain Bashung). She shrinks from his touch, and becomes anxious when her nurse mother (Mir-eille Perrier) has to work late. Her teacher is the first to suspect the handsome, blustering father of harboring incestuous desires but, after filing a complaint at the police station, the girl backs down when confronted with her dad.
From the beginning Issermann instills a doubt (but only a shadow) that the girl may be lying or imagining things. The father is disturbingly nonchalant about the accusations, the mother always backs him up, and grandpa and grandma deny all evidence.
Pic has no on-camera sex or nudity, but its subject matter is too chilling for immature auds. The one false note is a closing title full of TV-style stats about incest.
Cast is superbly chosen, with Blancke, Perrier and Bashung coming under scrutiny one by one in intensely emotional scenes. Darius Khondji’s lensing keeps the viewer up close to the characters. Cutting by Herve Schneid is briskly modern, avoiding all unessential details.