Moka (2017) - Frédéric Mermoud
Anchored by an intoxicating central performance by Emmanuelle Devos, who manages to encapsulate a grieving mother whose fragility is only matched by her dangerous desire to pursue the couple she suspects is responsible for killing her son in a hit-and-run, Frédéric Mermoud's Moka is an evocation of the obsessive nature of grief, the toxic relationship it can share with vengeance, and the struggle to reach a place of acceptance in times of traumatic personal loss. A Chabrol-esque style thriller, Moka is a quiet thriller, finding its central protagonist, Diane Roy, befriend the individuals she believes were responsible for killing her son, entering into their lives in a way that makes her final intentions unclear at first, as the film is more than content early on to simply detail a protagonist who is simply searching for some semblance of truth when it comes to the tragedy that shattered her world. Mermoud's Moka relies heavily on Emmanuelle Devos as Diane Roy, with the film never really pushing the envelop that much from a direction standpoint, unable to build an atmosphere that matches the unpredictable nature of Devo's performance. Desperate at times for more atmosphere, Moka may have benefited from a more voyeuristic aesthetic early on, with compositions that evoke the underlying determination in this protagonist who stalks these individuals, watching their every move, with the film remaining unclear for quite awhile, what exactly the intentions of Diane Roy truly are. Mermoud does provide some strong moments throughout, evoking the psychological torment of Diane, exhibiting how she routinely imagines her son lurking in the shadows of this grief-stricken environment she inhabits. Moka's examination of trauma, grief, vengeance, and the eventual need for acceptance is compelling despite the film's stylistic short comings, with the film's final scene effectively capturing how the living's best defense against personal trauma via grief is the shared connection they have to each other, as Diane comes to recognize that remembering the beauty of her son's life is truly the only way to form some semblance of strength, something that can't simply be achieved through vengeance. In the end, Diane is a character who reaches a point of acceptance about her son's death, letting go of being psychologically shackled by something she has no control over. While Frédéric Mermoud's Moka could have certainly used a more atmospheric aesthetic and brooding direction, Emmanuelle Devo's startling performance covers a large amount of the slack, crafting a character through performance which is dangerous yet fragile, brimming with uncertainty and deep-seeded trauma.
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