Sometimes, a story is less about whether someone is guilty or innocent than it is about the pressures and perceptions surrounding and following an ambiguous action. The local police chief, Laurent (Jérémie Renier), seems to have his life on track. He has just proposed to his partner of ten years, and their daughter is delighted. The force continues to deal with the worst of the community – suicides, child abuse, and drunken disturbances of the peace – but only after a land dispute gets out of hand, leading to a death, does Laurent’s façade begin to crack.

The morality of Laurent’s actions and the justification of his guilt given the extraordinarily difficult circumstances are not really the point of Drift Away – the film’s world accepts difficult decisions with kindness. Rather, the focus is on Laurent’s internal interpretation of events and his increasing spiral as doubt, responsibility, and a constant re-living of events in police investigations leave him no place to escape. Renier’s unshowy performance moves from a believable everyman whose only remarkable characteristic is the rapport he can build with his community to a claustrophobic, torturous look at a man hellbent on redemption or reconciliation. His supporting cast – notably Maille as his stoic partner Marie – play with similar levels of emotional honesty.

The film’s ending may swerve into an unoriginal man versus nature arc, but the performances on all sides – and Julien Hirsch’s masterful, unshowy cinematography – make the epic proportions feel the only logical echo of Laurent’s psyche. The mythic earns a place through its commitment to character.

Drift Away impresses due to its undidactic central character study – Laurent’s journey is one he must make alone, and the surrounding cinematic stylings serve to open his world to the audience rather than force conflict or conclusion. Humans do not need help creating that for themselves.



CAST: Jérémie Renier, Marie-Julie Maille, Victor Belmondo, Iris Bry, Geoffrey Sery, Olivier Pequery, Madeleine Beauvois

DIRECTOR: Xavier Beauvois

WRITERS: Xavier Beauvois, Frédérique Moreau, Marie-Julie Maille

SYNOPSIS: After a police officer proposes to his girlfriend of a decade, his professional life is shattered by a series of horrible cases.