The Night Of The 12th is a police procedural set in the small French town of Grenoble. Written by director Dominik Moll and Giles Marchand, based on the novel by Pauline Guéna, the plot hits several expected beats. But can the filmmakers add any new elements, or is the film more of the same?
On the night of the 12th, Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier) is out for a run when someone stops her in her tracks. The mysterious man then immolates her in what’s clearly a premeditated act. The next day, recently promoted Captain Vivès (Bastien Boullion) is put in charge of the case. He and his partner, Marceau (Bouli Lanners), have the unfortunate task of informing the young lady’s mother, who breaks down.
Now, the harder part of their investigation begins. Vivès and Marceau must interview everyone they can who was connected to Clara in some way and piece together a crucial missing piece: someone with a motive. Unfortunately, everyone the cops talk to as a person of interest seems to have had a reason or two to commit such a terrible act. Will the truth ever come to light and justice done, or is this another in a long line of unsolved killings?
“Vivès and Marceau must interview everyone they can who was connected to Clara…”
Yes, The Night Of The 12th does follow the police procedural formula as far as the investigation is concerned. However, every moment feels fresh because of the deep backstory given to all the characters, especially the young captain. His dynamic with his partner is quite compelling, as the two have a fun back-and-forth while maintaining an air of seriousness. Vivès is vexed by the lack of forward movement on the case. This makes him relatable and empathetic, as opposed to the too cool for this type made prominent by not-very-good but inexplicably popular U.S. shows.
Happily, the captain is not the only compelling character in the film. Clara’s best friend, Nanie (Pauline Serieys), tries to help as much as possible. And when she forgets to tell the police something because it “didn’t seem important,” her remorse rings true. The various significant others, hopefuls, and sex partners Clara had been with all have distinct personalities. Then there’s Nadia (Mouna Soualem), a fresh recruit who makes Vivès quite happy. However, her arrival shakes up the misogynist views of the elder statesmen of the department.
Parallels drawn between the casual sexism of the law enforcement officers and the brutal murder of the young woman make The Night Of The 12th truly poignant. Of course, it is the actors who truly get this point across. Boullion is brilliant as the determined but frustrated cop. When discussing why/how cases fall by the wayside with a judge, he nails the sentiment of knowing when to move on despite one’s feelings. Soualem is invigorating as the rookie, while Lanners is the perfect foil: about to age out, has seen it all, but still wishes to do an excellent job. Serieys sells the heartbreak of a best friend believably, while Cotton-Frapier conveys quite a bit in her brief role as the dead Clara.
The Night Of The 12th will emotionally exhaust audiences and get under their skin with its haunting ending. The cast perfectly plays their well-written roles, while the dialogue sounds authentic. It may be time the police procedural made an arthouse comeback.
For more information, visit The Night Of The 12th Film Movement page.