Road Games (Fausse Route) (2015)

Road Games first published by Twitch (now Screen Anarchy)

After a prologue shows a human corpse removed from a car boot to be sawn into pieces and buried in the woods, English tourist Jack (Andrew Simpson) appears trying – and failing – to hitch a ride home from the South of France, his fingernails bloodied and his arm bandaged. Jack rescues local orphan free spirit Véronique (Joséphine de la Baume) from a violent altercation with a male driver, and the two decide to hitchhike together for ‘safety in numbers’, not least because a murderer is at large, described by Véronique as “a serious [sic] killer like, um, Jack the Ripper”.

Yet they end up staying the night in the palatial home of Bruno Grizard (Frédéric Pierrot) and his anxious American wife Mary (Barbara Crampton), where nerves are fraying, relations are tense and something is definitely going unsaid. “I’ve seen a few dumb animals but this one’s definitely top of the list,” says Grizard of the rabbit that he has just run over and now wants to cook for dinner, adding “Mistakes happen.”

Indeed, Abner Pastoll’s Road Games (Fausse Route) is not just an Anglo-French co-production, but its tensions and ambiguities are facilitated by cultural and linguistic misunderstandings – and we are left to wonder whether Jack is the Ripper, or just more rabbit roadkill caught in the headlights and destined for the domestic pot. Even if you manage to disentangle the many twists relatively early on, there is still much pleasure to be had here in witnessing how Pastoll’s bilingual screenplay allows crucial giveaways to get lost in translation. And for a film where nuances in the characters’ looks and gestures often tell a different story from their mere words, the performances here are uniformly excellent.

© Anton Bitel