The Benefit of the Doubt, when uncertainty creeps in
by Aurore Engelen
- Belgian director Samuel Tilman delivers a gripping psychological thriller that strikes a chord with us all by asking the question: where does belief end and doubt begin?
World premiering on Tuesday evening at Namur Festival, The Benefit of the Doubt [+see also:
interview: Samuel Tilman
film profile] is the first feature film from Belgian director Samuel Tilman, known for A Sleepless Night (winner of a Magritte for best short film), the documentary series Longo, and the animated documentary, Le Dernier Gaulois [+see also:
interview: Samuel Tilman
film profile], broadcast on prime time TV on France 2.Tilman has attempted a genre film with his debut feature, delivering a psychological thriller that strikes a chord with us all by asking a simple question: where does belief end and doubt begin?
David is a father to a young family: he has a wife whom he loves, two young adorable children, and is part of a close-knit group of friends who often holiday together. But upon his return from a stay with friends in the Vosges, David is questioned by police in connection with a murder. The investigation quickly uncovers that behind his flawless facade, David doesn't seem to have such a perfect life after all. Doubt spreads and people take sides. If, initially, solidarity persists, the group’s beautiful harmony soon crumbles to pieces. Suspicions quickly arise, particularly as the investigation begins to creep into every dark and intimate corner of David's life, unearthing well-hidden secrets. Some big-time secrets. But if David’s capable of hiding such things from his wife and close friends, surely he's capable of hiding much worse?
From the warmth of the winter chalet to the cool of the investigation room, and from belief into doubt. Every minor detail is potentially loaded, and every single person, dependent on the empathy felt for David, abandons all objectivity in order to decide whether he is guilty (or innocent) based on a personal moral judgement and in the absence of any reasonable evidence. As David slowly loses his footing, toppled by a past that rears its ugly head, the group begins to fracture. Tensions emerge, sometimes even between couples, and everyone finds themselves having to choose a side, at times involuntarily.
Fabrizio Rongione plays David, a loyal companion to the director, who finds his himself in a tailor-made debut role in which he excels in letting doubt develop. Alongside him are his wife, played by Natacha Régnier, and his best friend, played by the singer Saule – a fellow classmate of Rongione – in his debut film role (under the name Baptise Lalieu), bringing a certain warmth and spontaneity to his character. The Benefit of the Doubt is a real group film, and the casting only adds to the realistic portrayal of a friendship group in disarray. You can also spot some well-known faces from Belgian TV, such as Yoann Blanc, Erika Sainte, Steve Driesenand Myriem Akheddiou.
The Benefit of the Doubt was produced by Marie Besson for Eklektik Productions, a company co-founded by Samuel Tilman and Fabrizio Rongione, in co-production with Serendipity Films and Good Fortune (Belgium), Urban Factory (France) and Point Prod (Switzerland). The film will be distributed in Belgium by O'Brother and in Switzerland by Outside the Box. Be For Films is taking on international sales.
(Translated from French)
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