This is a film that was pure as gold. In other words, there were no CGI effects, no orchestral melodramatic symphony, no distracting actors,…the characters were those you started to care mid-way through, even though they were not the best people to hang around. This was based on a true story in France, of a guy named Phillippe Berre. He is a fraudster. The biggest question was what he was running away from?!
Philippe Miller(François Cluzet – The Intouchables (2011)) is a con-man, he fakes to be an employee of a big construction firm, CGI, and signs off on orders of rental equipment, and sells them off to a bigger crook, Abel (Gérard Depardieu), for a commission. One day, he decides to bilk Abel of his money and gun, and leaves town. While on his getaway, he arrives at a halted construction site outside of a small town (Saint-Marceau was the real town involved in Berre’s fraud). He still pretends to be CGI employee, and ends up getting free lodging and meals. The town thinks the company is back to finish the construction left behind two years ago, because an endanger species of beetles was found at the site.
Almost in coercion, the town folks including the mayor want Phillippe to re-start the project, so that people will have jobs again. The last two years was devastating to the town, whose sole economy is built on construction projects. Hence, Philippe’s arrival is treated like the resurrection of the Christ.
Things are falling in place, and literally overnight, Philippe becomes the boss of a construction crew. He gets kickbacks (offered to him) from his suppliers, there are a lot of them. Normally, a crook will escape town before his lies catch up with his acts, but for some reasons, he feels sentimental with the town folks, especially, the hotel’s maid, Monika(Soko), the first to show him her kindness. He eventually hires her as his office assistant.
The Mayor, Stéphane(Emmanuelle Devos) gets smitten with her superstar saviour, and a brief romance sprouts until she catches up with reality.
The extraordinary part of the story is how others enable his lies to continue. Even the local bank becomes part of his scheme, inadvertently. Good things usually comes to an abrupt end, and in this case, Abel catches up and finds Philippe.
The film, at times, provided many metaphorical interpretations: a con man was always on the run (from what?), would he ever stay when an opportunity begged him to? the Autoroute 28, his project, where did it go when finished? What drew him to these folks? Did he really have a heart?
Philippe was an enigma, and that would be enough reason to draw you to this film.
WATCH…it’s in French with subtitle, and kudos to Cluzet.