Movie Review: Vincent (2015)
Among my favorite scenes in the recent Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” were the ones where a bearded Clark Kent acted the itinerant laborer in search of answers to his true, Kryptonian identity. He worked on a ship, in a restaurant, in the Arctic. He remained quiet and hung in the background—as much as someone who looks like Henry Cavill can hang in the background. I wanted more of these scenes. I wanted a whole movie of them.
French writer-director Thomas Salvador has now given me that.
And? Ehh. I wanted more: more dialogue, more fun, more purpose.
“Vincent” is about a quiet, unassuming, itinerant laborer (Salvador), who has superpowers when he’s wet. He can swim superfast, punch walls, lift 300 kilograms (661.387 pounds). Essentially his powers are only limited by the film’s budget; but since we’re talking French/indie, that means they’re fairly limited. There’s no CGI here, it’s all hydraulics and wires. It’s doesn’t look bad but it’s not exactly “The Avengers.”
I saw it during the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, with Salvador in attendance, and during the Q&A one audience member asked a rude but pertinent question: “Is there something in the French character that prevents Vincent from doing what most superheroes do—fight evil?”
Salvador, who struggles with English, answered mostly about Vincent’s character. Essentially: Vincent was someone who lived day to day.
I might’ve asked that question without disparaging an entire people. Something like: Why doesn’t Vincent do something worthwhile with his powers? Why hide them? What’s his fear?
The movie is full of unanswered questions like this. Is Vincent human? Where did his powers come from? When did he first notice them? If he stays in water longer, will he grow that much stronger? If he is out of water longer, does he grow that much weaker? Does dust make him weaker? Does sunlight?
The first quarter of the film is Vincent doing his job, then going to a nearby lake or stream to soak and bask and—when no one’s looking—swim like crazy.
Thank goodness Lucie (Vimala Pons) shows up. She’s hiking with a friend, sees Vincent in the stream, nods. That night, she sees him in the town square. They drink, listen to music, talk a bit. Their first kiss is rather charming: She all but pounces. In the relationship, she does most of the heavy lifting. A little ironic, given the movie’s theme.
For a lifelong loner, Vincent decides rather quickly to tell her his secret. I like the scene afterward when she checks between his toes for webs. And they have a good rapport. Her character is lively, and she brings out a bit of life in Vincent.
Then trouble. At work, his friend and employer, Driss (Youseef Hajdi), gets into a fight. He’s getting pummeled, so Vincent grabs a bucket of water, pours it over his head, then lifts a cement mixer (the 300 kg. item referenced above) and tosses it onto a car. Everything and everyone stops. But as they’re leaving, one dude attacks Vincent. Whomp! Against the wall. He crumples and his friends call the cops.
Questions: Did the dude die? We never find out. And why didn’t Vincent just try to help Driss without dousing himself with water? Why get all super to stop a simple fight?
Most of the rest of the movie is chase, which is fun, but I almost wanted him caught. I wanted exposure and revelation. At one point, yes, the cops do catch up with Vincent; but then they take him outside in the rain and ... Bang, zing, boom.
“Vincent” (in French: “Vincent n’a pas d’écailles”—“Vincent without the cape”) is not an unenjoyable film; there’s just not much there. It's peculiarly empty. Most of us struggle to find a purpose in life, something we’re super in, and Vincent has this ready-made. But he does nothing with it. Why? And how come Lucie doesn’t ask? Shouldn’t they talk about this? I know it’s odd asking this of a French filmmaker, but how about giving us a little philosophical discussion now and again?