In The Girl With a Bracelet, French director Stéphane Demoustier presents a gripping and fantastically acted courtroom drama. Adapted from Argentinian filmmaker Gonzalo Tobal's 2018 film Acusada (The Accused), the film stars Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni - daughter of acclaimed Italian actor Marcelo Mastroianni and legendary French film star Catherine Deneuve - as the parents of a teenager accused of murder.
Two years after her arrest on suspicion of killing her best friend Flora, 18 year old Lise (newcomer Melissa Guers) is finally preparing to stand trial as an adult. Having up until now been under house-arrest awaiting her trial, the young woman is required to wear an ankle tag - hence the bracelet from the title - forbidding her from straying too far from home.
As the trial gets under way, Lise’s life begins to unravel and secrets about her own relationships are revealed to the court, leading her parents to wonder how well they really know their daughter. The plot thickens as Lise is faced with pertinent questions from the Public prosecutor (Anaïs Demoustier) whose job it is to convince the jury of the young woman’s culpability. Lise, however, still maintain her innocence despite the odds stacking against her.
Demoustier does a fantastic job in mixing incisive drama with some truly pertinent questions about believability and judgement. Accused of being either too passive at the moment of her arrest or too cold as she speaks about her relationship with the victim, we get the impression that Lise is being deliberately set up to demonstrate that behaviour under scrutiny doesn’t always correspond to one’s actions in real life.
Melissa Guers puts in an impressive and beautifully self-assured turn, displaying more maturity than her years. As we learn more and more about Lise’s own sex life, there is a sense that the film is far more interested in addressing more profound subjects relating to the secret lives of teenagers than in the intricacies of the court case itself.
Roschdy Zem puts in a wonderfully understated turn as a father torn between wanting to be supportive towards his daughter and wondering whether he has done a good enough job in raising her. For her part, Chiara Mastroianni gives one of the best performances of the film. In a one of the most memorable scenes, she comes out fighting as a woman who refuses to let her daughter’s trial define her or her family.
Although The Girl With A Bracelet at times feels more like a made for TV production, one can’t help but admire Demoustier’s handling of this admittedly thorny subject. He presents a story full of ambiguity and brilliantly detailed introspective ideas. It is ultimately this ambiguity which makes this into much more than a run of the mill courtroom drama.