A village high up in the French Alps, a magnetic healer; “JACKY CAILLOU” | FILM REVIEW

The “Strange Case of Jacky Caillou” is the feature film debut from director Louis Delangle. This unique piece is an interesting folktale that pulls off its balancing act of the naturalistic and the fantastic, finding the harmony between the two narrative styles.

Thomas Parigi  is “Jacky” Caillou, a young man who lives with his grandmother Gisele (Edwige Blondiau) in a village high in the Alps.

Jacky lives a peaceful life, writing music and songs that he keeps to himself.  The young man wanders through his life. A smart and talented mind and well-liked in his small community, Jacky is a soul in search of purpose and connection, even if he is unaware of this fact.

In contrast to Jacky’s complacency, his wise grandmother (Edwige Blondiau) lives life by embracing purpose. She is a healer who combines her faith in a higher being with what she describes as a magnetic ability to restore people’s minds and bodies.

Jacky may have the same gifts as his grandmother and begins to take deeper interest in her abilities. In turn, the woman is happy to begin his training.

It is here where the inventive screenplay (written by Olivier Strauss and director Delangle) begins to play with convention, inserting something sinister into the modest folktale atmosphere.

In the community, several sheep have been killed by a mysterious creature. As this is happening, Jacky’s grandmother dies, an event he takes as a signal to continue her work.

A young woman named Elsa (Lou Lampros) is brought to the village. Her father is concerned about a strange patch of hair on her back that no regular doctor has been able to identify.

As Jacky examines Elsa, he is immediately drawn to her. While the two find a connection, this strange woman has secrets and trust becomes a barrier between the two.

Delangle is skilled at storytelling and “The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou” is like reading a good novel. The filmmaker isn’t interested in conventions. While his tale concerns a wolf that may or may not be a result of lycanthropy, the director keeps the fantastical to a minimum.

The screenplay puts the focus on human interactions and character growth, providing a welcome realism that is, at once, engrossing, and believable, even as genre elements begin to arise.

Jacky is more than the mere wide-eyed youth, so often portrayed in films of this ilk. Thomas Parigi plays his character naturally. Jacky is inquisitive but not impetuous. The actor portrays a convincing curiosity for life that is conveyed through minimal dialogue and skilled countenance.

Lou Lampros (with her already lupine features) makes Elsa a dangerous presence, but not outwardly so. This is a tragic character who cannot live in a world of life and love without putting others at risk. She doesn’t understand what is happening to her or why or if anything is truly happening at all. Lampros endears the audience to her plight through a patient and subdued performance.

Cinematographer Mathieu Gaudet makes the village and its surroundings quite intoxicating. The naturalism in his lens gives the village a humble ambience while the surrounding mountains are breathtaking in their majesty.

There is an artistry to Delangle’s methods, and one should go into the picture with their expectations left at the door. The film is effective with many of its tension-filled moments driven by the power of suggestion.

This is not a horror film, but there are instances of terror.

“The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou” is a fresh and compelling work. It is a film crafted with patience, taking careful time to immerse viewers into the characters and their world.

Louis Delangle’s first motion picture gets everything right and does something so precious and hard to achieve in today’s cinema; it reminds audiences that imagination can be our most valuable asset.

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