Jacky Caillou

The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou (aka Jacky Caillou) (2022)

The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou (aka Jacky Caillou) first published by Signal Horizon

In a large house situated in the French Alps at the beginning of The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou (aka Jacky Caillou), a young man picks up sounds with a parabolic microphone: first footsteps from upstairs, and then groanings and whisperings of the Lord’s prayer from behind a door. The man is Thomas ‘Jacky’ Caillou (Thomas Parigi), and although it seems initially that he is engaged in some kind of paranormal investigation, in fact the voice belongs to his grandmother Gisèle (Edwige Blondiau), who in the room beyond is helping one of several villagers lined up to see her.

Gisèle is a faith healer, and as she practises her art surrounded by old framed photographs of her ancestors, she may be the last in her line. When Jacky was still a child, his parents died in a car accident that he somehow survived, and now this tattooed ‘good lad’ seems more interested in composing and recording melancholic electronica and elegiac songs that are too personal for him to share with others than in resuming his family’s tradition. 

Yet Jacky’s experiments with a dying bird make him wonder if the gift of healing hands might after all have skipped a generation from grandmother to grandson – and so when Gisèle suddenly dies, he decides to take over her last, unfinished case: a young girl named Elsa (Lou Lampros) who is afflicted with a peculiar stain on her back, and who seems somehow to be connected to the disappearance of livestock despite the insistence of local shepherd Monsieur Bert (Georges Isnard) that “there are no predators here.” 

“Don’t chase miracles,” Gisèle had advised, “They don’t exist” – and so as Jacky takes his first steps along his family’s path of magic, he will learn that his powers of healing are finite, and that sometimes a lost cause must be let go. This feature debut of debut Lucas Delangle, co-written with Olivier Strauss, takes the barest bones of the werewolf myth and makes from them a hybrid chronicle of changing times and persistent tradition. For the old poetry is indeed dying, much as Jacky’s best friend Mathieu (Romain Laguna) ridicules and rudely curtails the romantic verse of a grey-haired customer in the village bar. If the community’s faith – essential to the Caillous’ work – is to be maintained, there must be new songs and new music. 

Meanwhile the surrounding forest from which Jacky draws his powers is also nurturing other, wilder forces over which he will prove to have no control. So Jacky’s first encounter with the mysteries of nature is a bittersweet lesson in limits and loss, in the miracles that cannot be chased – but it also shows the way to a balance of sorts being restored between woods and town, darkness and light. Jacky may hubristically imagine that with the wave of his hands, he can tame a beast and heal the entire village – but he is nonetheless capable of performing minor but meaningful miracles for the next generation, and of getting the village to believe once more. 

Contemplative and enigmatic, The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou is a mannered rite of passage, retuning familiar horror tropes to its own doleful harmonies and pulse, as a young man loses love and finds his calling.

strap: Lucas Delangle’s lightly lycanthropic feature debut shows a young man finding his legacy of healing in loss

Anton Bitel