The Night of the 12th (‘La Nuit du 12’)

CRIME; 1hr 55min (French with subtitles)

STARRING: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners

In the gloaming: from left, Bouillon and Lanners

The French police aren’t exactly renowned for their warm and fuzzy enforcement style. Yet even for the battle-scarred, some killings among the 800-plus that detectives deal with each year crawl deep beneath the skin. The incineration of 21-year-old Clara Royer (Lula Cotton-Frapier) by a barely glimpsed assailant while walking home on the night of October 12, 2016, in writer-director Dominik Moll’s proficient, ambiguous procedural will be one of those skin-crawlers for newly minted Grenoble police chief Yohan Vivès (Bouillon).


Yohan and his crime squad go to work on the case with a reflexive efficiency that belies their inner lives: when confronted with the unenviable task of breaking the news at her home to Clara’s consequently hysterical mother (Charline Paul), Yohan, a man of few words and little obvious emotion who cycles out his frustration on a featureless velodrome track, is struck by a photograph of Clara as a child. His right hand Marceau (Lanners) — and yep, there’s a mime joke — has been meanwhile knocked sideways by his failing marriage.


Moving right along, as detectives have no option but to do, the investigation focuses on three douchey young men (Jules Leroy, Baptiste Perais and Nathanaël Beausivoir) with whom Clara was more or less involved.The third suspect, unluckily for him, has rashly rapped on YouTube about his vengeful plan to torch her. And if he isn’t enough (which frankly, he is), yet another dodgy ex (Benjamin Blanchy) comes forward after mailing the officers a disposable lighter he found at the crime scene. Or did he?


If you accept that certain actions will never compute, the question of whether Clara was “a sweet girl [who] loved to be liked [and] always fell for the wrong guy,” as her bestie Stéphanie (Pauline Serieys) protectively claims, or whether there was a darkness in her to which Stéphanie was oblivious, is by definition unanswerable. Maybe Clara was neither. Maybe she was a paradox of both. Some people are a mystery no A-B-C can solve.