Veteran actress Nathalie Baye is outstanding as a crazed granny out to prove ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’ in this stylish, psychological thriller with definite shades of the master himself, Albert Hitchcock. Compare the opening scenes of a car interior as it speeds along a rain-swept road with an early scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho and the similarities are plainly there to see. And there’s no mistaking the distinctly retro feel to the film’s score. Yet Ali and Bonilauri have put their own stamp on this outlandish tale and have mixed genuine suspense with a just a hint of parody. True, the plot does at times push the limits of credibility and a less experienced actress than Baye might have tipped the main character over into caricature. But Baye knows exactly when to dial it down and keep on the right side of plausibility. There’s nothing ground breaking about La Volante, it’s simply a well-structured, well-paced spine-chiller of a film.
Thomas (Malik Zidi) is rushing his wife Audrey (Sabrina Seyvecou) to hospital to give birth to their first child when he accidentally knocks down and kills a young man, Sebastian. Nine years later, his marriage is on the rocks, he’s living alone with his son Leo (Jean Stan du Pac) and working for a firm of architects. Over the intervening years Sebastian’s mother Marie France (Baye) has been plotting her revenge and manages to secure a job as Thomas’ secretary. She gradually works her way into his family and eventually marries his father Eric (Johan Leysen). All the elements are now in place for Marie France to make Thomas pay for the death of her son.
Hollywood is no stranger to the female-revenge movie (The Hand that Rocked the Cradle, Fatal Attraction) and it’s good to see this directing duo, who have not produced a film for over 10 years, showing French audiences a home grown version of the genre. Baye is an inspired choice for Marie-France. At 67-years-old, she still has huge sex appeal and is able to switch in a heartbeat from coquettishly flirtatious to icily menacing. Alongside fellow sexagenarians Catherine Deneuve (Le Tout Nouveau Testament) and Fanny Ardent (Chic!), Baye exudes a sexual confidence that must by the envy of some older English-speaking actresses. Only La Volante‘s final scenes are a let down, as the directors appear to play safe with a predictable ending to a film which deserved more.