“L’homme qu’on aimait trop,” the original French title of “In the Name of My Daughter,” gives you a better idea what to expect of this shape-shifting film.
It means “The man that was loved by many” and rightly places the emphasis on Maurice, a philandering attorney whose motives remain as shady as his practice through the first three-quarters of the script. The translated title suggests the last fourth, as a mother who feels wronged by Maurice starts a crusade on behalf of her daughter.
Director André Téchiné presumably had to shape the narrative that way because it’s based loosely on real events in southern France, first in the late 1970s and then about eight years ago. But the story he started to tell has more force than the one he ends up telling.
We have suspicions about Maurice (Guillaume Canet) from the opening shot, where he seems furtively to study passengers from behind an airport pillar. He’s actually waiting to pick up Agnès Le Roux (the convincing Adèle Haenel), who has come home after a divorce to live with her wealthy mother, Renée (Catherine Deneuve, who at 71 was too old for this part).
Both women come to depend on him. Renée values his advice about running the casino in which she’s a majority stockholder, though she thinks he’s probably trying to shove himself into a position of authority. Agnès begins what the French call an amour fou – a crazy love – by falling for the man who’s married, has a son and admits to multiple mistresses. She gives him power of attorney over an inheritance from her late father and attempts suicide when he doesn’t return her devotion.
The film adapts a book by Renée and Jean-Charles Le Roux (her son), so you can guess where sympathies will eventually lie. But Téchiné, who wrote the screenplay with Jean-Charles Le Roux and Cédric Anger, spends most of his time with Maurice.
The actor playing him has recently become a director of thrillers himself (“Tell No One,” “Little White Lies” and the Clive Owen drama “Blood Ties”), and Canet’s enigmatic, slightly melancholy attorney holds our interest more than the crabby Renée or mulish Agnès.
We may not like him or trust him, but he’s the person we want to know more about. When the movie shifts gears, coming forward almost 30 years, Maurice becomes less interesting – and so does the picture.
‘In the Name of My Daughter’
A woman whose casino is floundering financially and a daughter whose marriage has foundered both come to rely on the same attorney, one for advice and one for love. But what are his motives?
B- STARS: Guillaume Canet, Adèle Haenel, Catherine Deneuve.
DIRECTOR: André Téchiné.
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes.
RATING: R (sexuality, nudity and some language).