Synopsis: There’s an elderly woman who disappears. A village that, behind all its gossip, hides a dark secret, a house split in half, tombs that are better left untouched, a doll that reappears from the past, a terrifying lawyer who wears a death mask. It will take some doing for Prudence (Catherine Frot) and Bélisaire Beresford (André Dussollier), who have Hercule Poirot’s patience and Agatha Christie’s humor, to uncover the astounding truth.
eyelights: the delicious dynamic between the two leads. the humour.
eyesores: the sober and less interesting third act. the editing.
“There’s no such thing as a quiet village.”
“Mon petit doigt m’a dit…” is a 2005 film based on Agatha Christie’s ‘By the Pricking of My Thumbs’. It is the first in a series of Agatha Christie adaptation that writer-director Pascal Thomas has made – three of which feature Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (renamed Prudence and Bélisaire in these films).
I first heard of this film after randomly picking up ‘Le crime est notre affaire‘ a few years ago and enjoying some aspects of it. When I started reading up on it, I discovered that Thomas had made two other films, one of which starred the same delightful duo of Catherine Frot and André Dussollier.
I later stumbled upon his fourth and most recent Agatha Christie adaptation, 2012’s ‘Associés contre le crime…’ at the library, and this made me want to discover his earlier efforts – because of Frot and Dussollier, but also because I’m curious to see what the one without them or the Beresfords might be like.
‘Mon petit doigt m’a dit…’ takes us to France, where we are introduced to our leads. Bélisaire’s aunt is in a seniors’ home and they decide to visit her one afternoon. Despite her Alzheimer’s Disease, she still dislikes Prudence, forcing the latter to seek refuge inside the villa. There she meets Ms. Evangelista.
Rose Evangelista, a seemingly senile older woman, makes an impression on Prudence. When the former is taken away from the home, Prudence starts to think that foul play is at hand – especially given the ongoing rumours of murder at the home. So she takes it upon herself to try to track down the woman’s whereabouts…
…and in the process reveals a dark secret that has been buried for decades.
As I mentioned in my blurb for ‘Le crime est notre affaire’, I have a small weakness for whodunnits. Although this picture doesn’t exactly qualify as such, I enjoy mysteries enough that this was appealing to me. But mostly, I was very keen on seeing Catherine Frot and André Dussollier together again.
While their dynamic felt contrived in the other one, it feels extremely fresh here. It looks like the pair thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, and they make the Beresfords appear tight even after decades together. In some ways their couple reminded me of Nick and Nora Charles in some ways.
I especially enjoyed the dialogues, which were peppered with humour throughout. The fact that I could catch enough of it to enjoy myself even though I didn’t have the luxury of subtitles says something about the quality of the exchanges and performances. They were sharp, and relatively witty.
Adding to this light-hearted vibe are the other odd bits that the filmmakers decided to throw into the mix. For instance, when our dynamic duo goes to visit his aunt at the home, many of the seniors are eccentric enough to elicit chuckles – but not in a way that was disparaging to senior; it was satirical, not mocking.
Similarly, when the Beresfords’ daughter and her family decide to drop in quasi-unannounced, we are treated to a droll moment when the couple’s true colours surface: they would rather not have to deal with the lovebirds and their twins. It’s not just a funny moment, but we see a complicity between them.
This gives us access to the characters’ inner core, telling us much more about them in just a few minutes than many other films would in two hours. It made me wonder if they had been changed from the original novel. The setting has been modernized, but have the characters too? And how faithful is the adaptation?
I really enjoyed the look of the picture. For starters, the Beresfords’ home is this amazing country villa: huge, with rock walls and gardens everywhere. The whole scenery throughout the picture is absolutely gorgeous, really: the French countryside, the old architecture, it has an atmosphere that you just don’t get in urban settings.
Unfortunately, the film drops much of its humour midway, when Bélisaire starts to look for Prudence. I suppose it would have taken from the sense of danger the filmmakers were trying to build. But the ending is anti-climactic anyway, so they probably could have allowed themselves to sustain the humour throughout.
There were also some editing problems along the way, with some mildly, very mildly, abrupt cuts between scenes. This made the transition between them feel a little off, sometimes throwing the comedy (I suspect that they were trying to hit their beats, but inadvertently missed some of them). But this is a minor thing.
Otherwise, I rather liked ‘Mon petit doigt m’a dit…’. It has an initial buoyancy that keeps it afloat even as it gets submerged in the plot’s suspense. Plus which the duo of Frot and Dussollier are really at the top of their game in this one; the picture is worth seeing if only for their initial scenes together.
‘Mon petit doigt m’a dit…’ may be fluff on many levels, but it’s clever fluff. And that can be rather entertaining. It’s hardly surprising that it inspired two sequels; I’m sure that it struck a chord with enough people to warrant it. Now I very much look forward to seeing the most recent one, ‘Associés contre le crime…’.
Date of viewing: November 10, 2014