Most movie courtroom dramas are filled with grandstanding speeches, elaborate exposes, reveals of last minute evidence, audacious baiting of untrustworthy witnesses, hard to impress judges and lawyers who are prepared to risk all for justice. In my limited experience (limited to one case I observed) this is not what it is like in real life. The reason they put all this stuff in is to make it all more tense and exciting and a movie needs that, right?
Well, as it turns out that’s wrong. Sure JFK wouldn’t be what it is without Kevin Costner’s elegant description of the magic bullet theory, A Few Good Men would not rise to that magnificent crescendo if Jack Nicholson was perfectly happy with the fact that we could all actually quite comfortably handle the truth and My Cousin Vinny would not be as heartwarming and funny if Herman Munster didn’t care what Joe Pesci wore to present his defence. Nonetheless, a movie doesn’t necessarily need all this as The Girl with a Bracelet so brilliantly shows.
This new French film plays out the final court dates of eighteen year old Lise who is on trial for the murder of her best friend two years previously. We also see some scenes of her at home under house arrest; the bracelet is a security tag around her ankle. Rather than showboating though, the performances are all very reserved and the film is all the better for it. It makes everything so involved and intense and you are gripped by the intimacy and reality of it. It all centres around the destruction of two lives, the victim and the accused, and as you watch Lise’s cool and distant reaction to her situation you wonder if she the architect of her own demise, and by this I don’t just mean whether she committed the crime or not. Is it her life choices then and now that are going to see her convicted?
The Girl with a Bracelet is actually a remake of a film from Argentina from two years ago but unlike when America does this, it doesn’t seem here to be just about presenting the story in your own language. This new version strips away the depiction of all of the media attention that was a big part of the original to focus just on the girl and her family.
The problem for Lise is that she is unabashedly sexually promiscuous, unabashed at least in front of her parents and the jury. The motive put forward by the prosecution is that Lise committed the murder as revenge for her friend releasing a video of her engaged in a casual sexual act online. The question is around if she is on trial for this too. This makes it feel like the film is exploring a particular female experience. I wouldn’t suggest that she is necessarily being judged more harshly because she is female but she is being judged differently and against different expectations. She is not presented as a predator as a male may be, I mean other than the fact that she may have killed someone, but she is labelled as morally deviant and therefore more likely to have extended this to murder. There could be metaphor here as this idea of being ‘easy’ is something some young girls stand accused of in schools around the world and are judged without trial. The title of the film is not as throw away as it sounds either. Her bracelet is an emblem of the life she has been living and how this has changed her, how her experiences as she has grown into adulthood have shaped the adult she will be. Extreme as Lise’s situation is then, this really is real life, this is not like it is in the movies and it doesn’t end when the credits roll.
The Girl with a Bracelet is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema.