First Case Review
First Case / Premiere Affaire (2023) Film Review from the 76th Annual Locarno Film Festival, a movie written and directed by Victoria Musiedlak and starring Noée Abita, Anders Danielsen Lie, Alexis Neises, François Morel and Saadia Bentaieb.
Noée Abita is absolutely fantastic in filmmaker Victoria Musiedlak’s dramatic new French movie, First Case which centers on a young legal assistant’s quest to prove herself in her chosen profession. Abita is vulnerable on screen and turns in some very nuanced work opposite the terrific Anders Danielsen Lie who plays a cop who ends up having a steamy affair with the character played by Abita. While First Case certainly maintains interest throughout, it is also never predictable and takes many plot turns which are quite unexpected making it a very powerful film overall. You can almost see Hollywood coming to remake it sooner rather than later as the plot always keeps the audience watching and never steers into cliched territory.
Abita portrays Nora who is given the opportunity to shine when she takes on the case of a teenager named Jordan (Alexis Neises). It seems Jordan is involved in the disappearance of a teenage girl. The plot thickens when that girl is found to be murdered which makes the case more complex in nature and challenges Nora who is just a young woman in her mid-twenties herself. As Nora makes the jump from financial cases to a criminal one, her whole world is changed in a heartbeat.
Lie portrays Servan who is an authority figure who oversteps his boundaries at times. When Servan and Nora engage in a steamy sexual encounter, Nora initially begins to feel self-worth as she loses her virginity and is determined to be the best she can be in her field of specialty. However, there are plot twists which make things a lot more complicated than they appear to be on the surface. Those events coupled with Nora’s troubled relationship with her family makes for quite a compelling legal thriller.
Nora eventually learns the truth about the way people are and she must separate her own personal interests and beliefs from the reality of certain situations in order to become the professional she so desperately yearns to be. She also seems to suffer from depression which kicks in as she overeats and disappears from her family for a week in a key part of the movie.
The plot of First Case initially makes it seem hopeless for Nora to succeed as obstacles are thrown in her way during every step of her professional journey. Nora is a fierce, determined woman underneath her soft exterior, though. The scenes between Lie and Abita are full of great energy and we feel the passion Nora has as she is holding onto Servan for reasons that could ultimately prove to be pointless. Nora grows as a character through every stage of the movie and the direction by Musiedlak is always probing and rarely hits a false note.
Anders Danielsen Lie is a terrific actor and is the perfect casting choice for the part he plays in the film. The audience will feel that they can trust him at first and that’s because of how convincing Lie is at playing his role. He creates a lot of on-screen chemistry with Abita through their interaction together whether you believe the movie makes the right choice in how it develops the character of Servan or not. Lie is one of the best actors working today and this performance proves that.
Neises is convincing as Nora’s apparently clueless client who may or may not be guilty of the crime he is accused of. But, the movie isn’t really about him. It’s about Nora’s quest to be taken seriously as a lawyer. Will Nora give up and find the harsh realities of her profession too difficult to overcome or will Nora find the loopholes in the system she needs to in order to win the challenging case she has taken on?
First Case is a confident picture with Abita and Lie both at the top of their game. One will root for Nora because she is a likable character with a lot of heart and a lot of passion that makes it difficult for her to focus on the truth while doing the frustrating tasks associated with her career. First Case will not only surprise you but will also make audiences realize that determination and ambition are only half the battle. The truth isn’t always the most important factor in determining the resolution of a case such as the one the movie highlights. It’s the way the system really works and how one navigates that system which will ultimately help Nora on her difficult path in life. First Case is recommended viewing for its unpredictability and its solid performances.
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