Nocturama kicks off with a gripping start, weaving through Parisian streets and cutting back and forth in time as a group of teenagers carry out a series of attacks that shake the city. Director Betrand Bonello pulls out all the stops for this act, throwing in split-screen shots and frenetic jump cuts to up the energy – and the tension, as events spiral to an impressive crescendo.
Unfortunately, Nocturama is defiantly hard to follow – it takes a long time before the film clues you into the plotting of the teenagers, and the film’s constant obfuscating quickly becomes irritating as it refuses to explain the motivations of its characters. Nocturama seems to mistake pointlessness for poignancy, and while this does lend a bizarre weight to the department store shenanigans in the second act, ultimately the film fails to leave any lasting impression beyond the controversy of its premise.
The young cast do their best with a thin script – and Nocturama is at its best when they are just mucking around in the store during the second act, more interested in blasting tunes and dressing up than observing the consequences of their actions. The cast shine in these comedic moments, but unfortunately this fun interlude quickly gives way to a bloody and dour climax that fails to hit its mark – largely because of a brutal police response that overshadows the rest of the film’s controversial elements, leaving a bad taste in your mouth as the credits roll.
Nocturama’s greatest crime is how little it does with a topic bursting with meaningful and resonant stories. While Bonello’s style is vibrant and punchy, this missed opportunity is unlikely to make much of an impact – probably for the best.
CAST: Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa
DIRECTOR: Bertrand Bonello
WRITER: Bertrand Bonello
SYNOPSIS: A group of young people from diverse social backgrounds move through Paris, crossing paths, heading with determination towards a common purpose – to set the city alight. After accomplishing their terrible mission, they hide out overnight in a department store, where – surrounded by the glamorous signifiers of 21st-century materialism – they await their fate.