Must-See Movie Review: 'UV' (2007)

A French thriller that's plot plunges into deceptively deeper depths than the pool at its epicenter; “UV” is a riveting, character-driven mystery that explores the inner dynamics of a family in subtle turmoil.

Its story ignites when a stranger named Boris (Nicolas Cazale), arrives at the villa of a wealthy family on holiday, explaining that he is a former schoolmate and friend of their wayward son and brother, Philip. This is when things get fascinating and a heat wave of tension begins to smolder.

As the family opens up their home and dinner table to the presumptive friend of their erstwhile relative, storm clouds of familial angst begin to form, as the two sister’s rivalry for Boris’ attention heats up in humorous and sometimes dramatic fashion.

The younger of the two sisters, Julie (Laura Smet) is single and ready to mingle. While older sister Vanessa (Anne Caillon) is a wife and mother, who wants to prove to herself and her sister that she still has “it”.

What “UV” manages to do with great acumen is sidestep any specific genre. As in life, there are funny and dour moments, each entertaining in their own right. The suspenseful question at the forefront of the plot is whether Boris is really who he claims to be. The notion is cleverly played for both lighthearted comedy and dramatic darkness, depending on what you believe his motivations for such a deceit would be.

Vanessa's husband and heir apparent to the throne of his marital family empire, Andre-Pierre (Pascal Elbe) is skeptical of Boris' arrival. Is he onto something? The audience is kept guessing, until the last minute. The way such sinister possibilities are presented is not as an in-your-face thriller, rather a realistically taught mystery.

"UV" is more-so a character study than outright thriller. Its tension hinges on interpersonal family dynamics, female rivalry and the awkward ingredient of a house guest whose intentions are as difficult to surmise, as the duration of his stay.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner infuses “UV” with the scorching intensity of the sun its characters love to bask in; gradually reaching its boiling point by ratcheting up every nuanced undercurrent of brewing conflict. How a movie that takes such a lackadaisical pace can be so engaging is a testament to its characters and the dazzling cast that portrays them.

Thanks to a proper set-up, Paquet-Brenner captures the malaise intrigue of a film leisurely working to entertain without inducing boredom. The execution of such a feat is tricky and in classic European style it more than manages. That is because it closely resembles real life, rather than the cliché and fantastical formulas that often prohibit an audience from fully losing themselves in a cinematic daydream.

The performances are tremendous. Laura Smet and Anne Caillon sell their sisterly bond and sibling rivalry with equal vigor. Nicolas Cazale blazes onto the screen as Boris with ample charisma as a playboy seemingly too good to be true. Tying the film together is the performance of Pascal Elbe as the film's humorously frustrated husband, Andre-Pierre.

His characterization of the single-minded family protector is marvelously entertaining and he and Cazale spring off each other in a screen, ted-a-tee that is enamoring to witness. Meanwhile, Marthe Keller brings genuine maternal warmth to the film’s atmosphere as the family matriarch. Finding this much talent in one film is a rare and pleasant treasure.

Staying out of the sun can be good for a person’s health. Fortunately the rays of “UV” are not hazardous; in fact they could prove quite the opposite. Rating: 8.3/10

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