French auteur Arnaud Desplechin’s latest film Oh Mercy! initially looks like a promising crime drama. The first hour keeps a high pace as varying crimes are committed by different characters. This helps to establish the sense of lawlessness found in poverty stricken cities like Roubaix. Unfortunately, Desplechin cannot sustain the momentum he builds.
The second hour grinds to a crawl as the focus shifts to a single crime. The transition int this section leaves one feeling disconnected as it almost entirely discards the events that proceeds it. The way the suspects are questioned provides some originality, but the police investigation plays out like an episode of CSI, or one of its many clones.
It also does not help that the individuals surrounding this investigation, including key characters (played by Léa Seydoux and Sara Forestier), are all thinly drawn characters. There is little distinction between the various personalities shown throughout the film. They all show tendencies to commit crime, but none show any type of strength to overcome their environment and overall situation.
The central police officers, Commissaire Yacoub Daoud (Roschdy Zem) and Lieutenant Louise Cotterel (Antoine Reinartz), do not fare much better. Their seemingly flawlessness creates a heavy feeling of bias in the script. Since not one mistake or misjudgement is ever made, the officers rarely feel like real people.
The lack of focus in Oh Mercy!, other than its portrayal of poverty, makes for a disjointed and confused film. As a result, the film is a disappointing affair given the clear talent Desplechin has displayed in the past.