Le Fidèle (2017)

  • Time: 130 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama
  • Director: Michaël R. Roskam
  • Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Eric De Staercke, Stefaan Degand


When Gino meets racing driver Bénédicte, it’s love at first sight. Passionate. Unconditional. Fiery. But Gino hides has a secret. The kind of secret that can endanger your life and the lives of those ones around you. Gino and Bénédicte will have to fight against fate, reason and their own weaknesses to save their love.

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  • The white hot chemistry of Matthias Schoenaerts and Adèle Exarchopolous is more than enough to recommend Flemish director Michaël R. Roskam’s flawed but engaging Le fidèle (aka Racer and the Jailbird). By any other circumstances, this amour noir, as described by Roskam, would be a contrived melodrama, a less adrenalised Fast and Furious if you will, yet the leads’ soulful performances and Roskam’s own skilful direction elevate Le fidèle into more thoughtful pulp.

    The jailbird is Gino (Schoenaerts), nicknamed Gigi, first seen as a young boy fleeing an abusive household. Next we see him, the adult Gigi is at a racetrack where he meets talented speedster Bénédicte (Exarchopoulos), known as Bibi, with whom he is instantly, inexorably besotted. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asks, not wasting any time. It isn’t too long before the two are lovers and an established couple, with Gigi introducing her to his gang of friends, mates he’s known from his foster home days and his partners in crime. Literally. For, as Gigi drunkenly confides to Bibi, “he’s a gangster and he robs banks.” Bibi laughs it off, believing it to be a joke but, as his face sobers ever so slightly, it’s clear that he has told her a cold, hard truth.

    It’s also a cold, hard truth that he knows he can’t hide from her for too much longer. Her father already has his suspicions about what Gigi does for a living and, though he won’t deny Gigi Bibi’s hand in marriage, he warns that Gigi either tells Bibi the truth or stop doing whatever it is that makes him lie. Bibi herself, though at times wilfully ignorant to the dots that are connecting themselves before her, senses that he’s keeping secrets from her. For her sake, Gigi decides to do one last job but, naturally, that final heist goes wrong and, just when you think you know where the film is headed, Roskam and co-screenwriters Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré reveal that there’s still about an hour’s worth of this tale to tell.

    Indeed, much of that second half is a mixed bag, replete with as many muddled, often superfluous scenes as there are affecting and unexpected ones. The filmmakers also have a slippery control over the narrative momentum, which further undermines the film. Luckily, Le fidèle has gained enough goodwill that one can overlook these stumbles. For one, Gigi and his gang’s capers are excellently staged – one set piece involving a shipping container being tossed off a highway bridge is an especial highlight – and for another, Schoenaerts and Exarchopolous are so perfectly matched and deliver such intense and impassioned portrayals that they make one believe that love can conquer all.

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