‘Nobody’s Hero’ (‘Viens je t’emmène’): Film Review | Berlin 2022

‘Stranger by the Lake’ director Alain Guiraudie’s latest film, about a terrorist attack’s effect on several interlinked characters, opened up the Panorama section at this year’s Berlinale.

Although he was recognized for years as one of France’s most singular new auteurs, writer-director Alain Guiraudie only broke out onto the international scene with his 2013 feature, Stranger by the Lake, which combined a creepy Hitchcockian murder mystery with the story of gay men searching for love and lust in a dangerous world.

As offbeat as it was, Stranger was actually Guiraudie’s most conventional work to date, whereas his other films teetered between surreal comedy, magical realism and explicit eroticism, often combining all three into a single narrative. His latest effort, Nobody’s Hero (Viens je t’emmène), follows somewhat in that vein, although it’s more grounded in reality, and particularly the political realities of modern-day France, focusing on the effects that terrorism can have on several everyday people.

Nobody’s Hero

The Bottom Line

A strange brew of deadpan sex drama and social critique.

Venue: Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama)
Cast: Jean-Charles Clichet, Noémie Lvovsky, Illiès Kadri, Michel Masiero, Doria Tillier
Director, screenwriter: Alain Guiraudie

1 hour 40 minutes

The result is a somewhat uneasy mix of social critique and bizarre sex drama in which Guiraudie seems to be spitballing different ideas without making all of them stick. After opening Berlin’s Panorama section, the film will likely play best on the director’s home turf, where he still has a strong following.

You can sort of get what Guiraudie is going for in the opening sequence, which follows a droopy online marketing expert, Médéric (Jean-Charles Clichet), as he heads out for a run and spots a prostitute, Isadora (Noémie Lvovsky), immediately falling in love with her. The next thing you know, the two of them are going at it in a cheap hotel, the camera catching every dirty detail of their tryst until their coitus gets interrupted by a news alert signaling a terrorist attack in their home city of Clermont-Ferrand.

The jump from semi-graphic sex to the kind of devastating incident that’s occurred several times in France these past years is jarring, and it’s not clear whether the director is playing it for deadpan humor or something more serious — or perhaps both at the same time.

Things get even more tangled after Médéric bumps into Sélim (Illiès Kadri), a homeless kid looking for a place to crash for the night. The fact that he resembles a terrorist still on the loose alarms Médéric but doesn’t stop him from welcoming the boy into his building, and eventually into his apartment, where they become unlikely roommates. Meanwhile, Médéric is still chasing after Isadora, and the two lovebirds are obliged to meet on the sly — including inside a church, where they engage in some unholy cunnilingus — to avoid the prostitute’s jealous and abusive husband, Gérard (Renaud Rutten).

With its story of neighbors wracked by fear of one another, especially after Sélim becomes a permanent guest in Médéric’s building, Nobody’s Hero offers up a fairly morose depiction of contemporary French life, revealing how quickly violence can flare up whenever tensions and suspicions run too high.

At the same time, the film tends to play out as nonsensical social satire, with characters like Isadora who can feel cartoonish (this despite the full-blooded commitment of Lvovsky), and a denouement that involves an unlikely blend of guns, explosions and some very loud orgasms.

There’s always been something a bit Godardian about Guiraudie’s work, which has its own original style and tone that he’s perfected across a dozen shorts and features since the early aughts. With its shift toward more overtly political and critical filmmaking, Nobody’s Hero is perhaps the closest thing the director has made to Godard’s Weekend or La Chinoise — albeit with much more sex — and that fact may please his diehard fans more than it will rally new viewers to his side.

Like most of his films, the technical elements, including gritty, naturalistic cinematography by Hélène Louvart (The Lost Daughter) and low-key music by Xavier Boussiron (who worked on Guiraudie’s The King of Escape), are strong, underscoring an urban setting that’s at once mundane and constantly tense. The original French title, which is also the title of a song by late pop singer France Gall, translates to: “Come, I’ll take you there.”

Full credits

Production company: CG Cinema
Cast: Jean-Charles Clichet, Noémie Lvovsky, Illiès Kadri, Michel Masiero, Doria Tillier
Director, screenwriter: Alain Guiraudie
Producer: Charles Gillibert
Director of photography: Hélène Louvart
Production designer: Emmanuelle Duplay
Costume dsigner: Khadija Zeggaï
Editor: Jean-Christophe Hym
Composer: Xavier Boussiron
Casting director: Coralie Amedeo
Sales: Les Films du Losange
In French

1 hour 40 minutes