A Few Days in September
3.5/5 Quelques Jours en Septembre
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Santiago Amigorena
with Juliette Binoche, John Turturro, Sara Forestier, Tom Riley, Nick Nolte, Mathieu Demy, Saïd Amadis, Magne-Havard Brekke, Joël Lefrançois, Alexis Galmot, Jean-Luc Lucas, Roberto Moro
release Fr 6.Sep.06, UK 14.Sep.07
06/France Canal+ 1h56
A Few Days in September
On the waterfront: Binoche, Riley and Forestier

binoche turturro nolte


A Few Days in September A slow-burning thriller with an intriguing mystery at its centre, this film's tone is reminiscent of The Third Man, although updated to make some extremely provocative suggestions.

On 5 September 2001, Irene (Binoche) tracks down Orlando (Forestier), who she hasn't seen for a decade, and they head to Paris to meet Orlando's long-lost father Elliot (Nolte). There, the young American David (Riley) turns up, saying that Elliot is also his father, although he knew him under a different name. As these three try to work out where Elliot is now, they're guided to Venice for a rendezvous, set up by a pair of shadowy Arabs (Demy and Amadis). They're also pursued by a tenacious hitman (Turturro) who has his shrink on speed-dial.

The opening date gives the film an intriguing countdown, while news of Elliot's travels from New York to Afghanistan offer the eerie foreboding of what's about to happen. Writer-director Amigorena pieces the story together with patience, leaving a lot of it in the margins so we're never quite sure what's going to happen next or who Elliot will turn out to be. It's inviting and insidious, and pretty ingenious as the mystery both deepens and comes into focus.

Binoche, Forestier and Riley play sharply disparate characters--with a shared past but no real knowledge of each other. And their performances are lively and engaging, often very funny and even flirtatiously sexy as their various interrelationships develop. The oddball in the mix is Turturro, with his blackly comical psychoses and strange obsessions, plus a cocky arrogance that leaves us unsure if he's going to ruthlessly succeed or be his own undoing. All while Nolte remains enigmatically out of the frame until the final act.

While the film sometimes feels extremely slow, it also builds a violent, tense subtext through its cat-and-mouse structure and the shadowy, maze-like streets of Venice. Along the way, the filmmaker subtly weaves in a thorny debate on the relationship between America and the rest of the world. In the end, the story feels a little loose and unclear, but the ideas it raises linger in the mind for a long, long time.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 31.Jul.07

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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall