Foreign Objects - Large

David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) is a successful mystery writer who’s come to the coldest place in France for the reading of his uncle’s will. The 400-mile drive seems at first to have been in vain as his only inheritance is a stuffed dog named Toby, but when a beautiful blonde is discovered dead in the snow, Rousseau finds a more compelling reason to stay in town.

Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton) was a local celebrity who dreamed of bigger things but found her greatest success as a frequently nude spokesmodel for a popular cheese company. Her death sparks Rousseau’s curiosity with the hope that it might also help him break through his writer’s block, and as he reads her journals the film flashes back to reveal a woman in flux. Lecoeur modeled the last few years of her life on an infamous blonde bombshell with whom she felt great affinity, and as Rousseau digs deeper he suspects her death may have followed suit.

Nobody Else But You is an alternately fun, suspenseful and sad mystery, but it’s interested in more than simply who may or may not have had a hand in Lecoeur’s demise. It’s about the paths we choose and the ones life chooses for us. Who we are and who we want to be are rarely the same thing, and the divide between them is sometimes filled with regret, a loss of identity and naked firemen.

“Even cold, I’m still the hottest gal in all of Franche-Comté.”

The town of Mouthe is a visibly cold place and filled with fans of both the dead model and the living mystery writer. Everyone loved Lecoeur, from pre-teen fans to grown-up admirers, and her sexuality was often at the heart of it all. Her journals reveal a young woman who wants more from her small town and the chance meeting that led to a name change, a willingness to use her body to get ahead and the emotional spiral that followed. Rousseau’s investigation, aided by a young deputy whose dream is to become a Canadian cop, leads to brushes with death, but are they coincidences in service of the unfolding mystery in his head or are enemies actually seeking his demise?

Writer/director Gérald Hustache-Mathieu‘s film begins as an offbeat comedy, but while it maintains a subtle and dark sense of humor throughout it slowly reveals itself to be an affecting look at identity… the pursuit of it as well as the loss. It’s a beautiful-looking film too with stark, wintry exteriors and locations filled with character. The harsh cold often seems to breach the screen, and you may swear more than once that your own exhalations have become visible.

The film moves between the present and the past, but in a slight nod to Reversal of Fortune‘s brain-dead narrator Lecoeur occasionally chimes in with observations from beyond. Both humorous and profound, the thoughts of the dead woman come from a place of resignation and clarity that eluded her in life. Rousseau is in better shape than the dead woman, and his search for answers offers the possibility of growth and enlightenment that she no longer has.

Lecoeur’s obsession with Marilyn Monroe occasionally threatens to overshadow the film’s narrative and characters (although she resembles Michelle Williams more than Monroe), but Quinton keeps her down to earth and charismatic throughout. Rouve is equally engaging as his motivations move from simple curiosity to honest affection.

Nobody Else But You entertains and saddens in equal measure, and while it teases a Fargo-like quirkiness early on it settles in to its own personality and rhythm as we meet and come to care about these two characters whose lives have crossed only in death. Far from a dour affair though, the film is filled with with an appreciation for life that proves it’s never too late to start living. Well, unless you’re already dead.

The Upside: Wonderfully acted; sharply written; successful tonal shifts between humor, suspense and sadness

The Downside: Too many naked firemen

On the Side: The French title is the far more linguistically appealing Poupoupidou

Grade: B

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