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By Rich Cline | October 4, 2004

With deeply unlikeable characters and an uneasy tone, this moody French thriller still somehow manages to draw us completely into its web. Virtually deaf, Carla (Devos) is a bored office worker, constantly dumped on by her colleagues and just about at the end of her tether when she hires the paroled ex-con Paul (Cassel) as her assistant. Then she loses it completely, teaming with him first to get even with her bosses and then to help him plan a rather daring burglary that seems like it could go horribly wrong at any second.
Despite a bit of repetition that makes it feel long, the film sits on a knife-edge from start to finish–two desperate people drawn inexplicably together. They seem like pathetic losers, but both are focussed and extremely resourceful as they push each other back and forth … and forward. Devos and Cassel (against type) brilliantly inhabit these unpredictable characters–shy on the outside but full of passion and rage. As they move from mistrust to tenderness, coercion to understanding, we begin to realise that this is a slow-burn romance in which the characters won’t get together until the bitter end–“Bonnie and Clyde” go “Sleepless in Seattle.” Meanwhile, the screenplay superbly weaves in Carla’s deafness every step of the way. Just when we’ve forgotten that she uses hearing aids, her so-called disability actually propels the story. And as a director, Audiard has so many tricks up his sleeve that he keeps us guessing right to the very end, which isn’t easy to do in a genre film like this.

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