"Moka" balances stereotypical revenge trope with unrealistic characters
Swiss director Frédéric Mermoud’s second feature film, “Moka,” follows the story of Diane (Emmanuelle Devos) who is struggling with the death of her only son in a hit and run accident. Diane is stricken with grief and anger as the police seem to be unable to find the killers, taking the case into her own hands by hiring a detective. She tracks a couple matching the description and infiltrates their lives to find hard evidence, subjecting them to the same pain that she is filled with. The film’s main question, “what does revenge mean?” gets over asked. What can Diane hope to accomplish by finding her son’s killers? What will it really change? Not once is there an actual answer.
The francophone film is a contemporary realist exploration of Diane’s pain as well as a dark and twisted thriller. The movie emphasizes its realism using a minimal soundtrack, often even using no soundtrack at all. Realistic dialogue and a combination of handheld and steady camera to give the viewer a uniquely personal point of view. The viewer is meant to constantly be next to Diane, having the story be revealed to both at the same time.
It’s not surprising that the mother figure loses her child, and thus plays into the more stereotypical aspects of the revenge trope. While there are some moments that are compelling and delve into Diane and surrounding characters, the film is mainly controlled by a trite story.
The few moments showing Diane’s thoughts and motives are what make this movie interesting. Sadly, a few fantastic moments do not make a good film. The rest of the film is mostly Diane speaking to the suspected couple and acting awkward and anxious. While a realist film, it includes unrealistic characters or actions.
If you have a keen interest in foreign or realist films, “Moka” could be a fun flick, but this is definitely not a movie for everybody. The few moments of intensity and suspense are not worth watching the entire film.
Moka opened in theaters on July 7.
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