Sticking with a winning formula, Vincent Garenq once again turns to real life events for his latest film, Au Nom de Ma Fille (Kalinka), the story of one man’s 27 year struggle to bring to justice the man he believed murdered his daughter. In his first serious drama since 2013’s Avant l’Hiver, Daniel Auteuil is slick and credible as the father, Andre Bamberski. But it’s a role which doesn’t demand too much from an actor of his calibre. By keeping to a strict timeline of events and providing excessive detail of most of the legal complexities of the case, Au Nom de Ma Fille ends up a dry, soul less affair with none of the dramatic punch of Garenq’s previous two films Présumé Coupable (Guilty) and L’Enquête (The Clearstream Affair).
It’s July 1982 and Bamberski has just learned his 14-year-old daughter Kalinka is dead. She was on vacation in Germany with her mother Dani (Marie-Josée Croze) and her stepfather Dieter Krombach (Sebastian Koch) when she apparently died in her sleep. Realising his daughter passed away under suspicious circumstances, Bamberski pins the blame on Krombach the man with whom his wife had an affair and subsequently married. He is convinced the German doctor murdered his daughter. But proving this to the authorities in France and Germany, and even to his own family, becomes a battle that will take 27 years and become his lifelong obsession.
As the film is based on a true headline grabbing story, there’s no mystery surrounding the eventual fate of Bamberski and Dieter Krombach. It falls to the interplay of characters behind the narrative to provide any dramatic interest. And there’s nothing spectacular about Bamberski. Even his most outrageous actions are carried out with an almost unnatural, measured calm which Garenq never seeks to dissect. Likewise Krombach, a man whose double life clearly demands a closer look. True it’s shocking to discover the level of incompetence and lack of political will to imprison a man who has committed a serious crime. Yet even here Garenq shies away from picking apart the forces lined up against Bamberski. and the audience is left with a swift trot through a dark period in France’s legal history.