Louis Garrel’s “The Innocent,” which the French cinema star directed, wrote and stars in, is about as frothy and bite-size as heist movies get, one that has more in common with a rom-com than with “Dog Day Afternoon.” That’s not a knock. The film, which opens at IFC this Friday, is a humanistic story wrapped in a fun, punchy exterior, much like the French synth-pop music throughout its soundtrack.
Abel (Garrel), a young man who’s grown apathetic since losing his wife in an accident, is close to his mother, Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg). But their relationship is tested when she marries a convict, Michel, (Roschdy Zem) shortly before his release. Abel’s suspicions grow as Michel helps procure a flower shop for the family through mysterious means, leading Abel to spy on the former con with his close friend Clémence (a very charming Noémie Merlant). Predictably, Michel isn’t as reformed as he claims to be, and Abel finds himself pulled into a criminal enterprise that he’s in no way equipped for.
Garrel knows how to maintain tension throughout the film without giving the audience a panic attack, and he even manages to imbue it with stylistic flair here and there. (The fact that Abel and Clémence work at an aquarium certainly helps with unusual visuals.) But the entertainment value of “The Innocent” lies not in the actual heist — which amounts to little more than a shipment of caviar at a truck stop — but in its lighthearted comedy, its by-the-numbers romance plot and its relatable family drama grafted onto an absurd premise. It is, as one character orders at a diner, a “Coke Zero with sugar” of a film.
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. In theaters.