Written by Caballero Oscuro
Although the innocuous title makes this French revenge drama sound about as thrilling as The Tax Guy or The Librarian, its subtle psychological terror makes it a winning composition.
As the film opens, a gifted young pianist named Mélanie is auditioning for admittance to a prestigious Conservatory when her concentration is broken by a thoughtless act by one of the judges. Bitterly disappointed by her failure, she gives up the piano forever.
A decade later, Mélanie is working at a law firm where she meets the husband of the judge who wronged her. She has grown into a poised, lovely young lady who appears to be completely normal and well-balanced. She finds an opportunity to work her way into his home, where she begins to form a close bond with the former Conservatory judge, a famous but emotionally fragile concert pianist.
Since viewers aren’t given any insight into Mélanie’s mindset before she enters the household, it’s not entirely clear at first whether she’s possibly acting out of goodwill or if she’s still carrying a grudge. That’s where the charms of this film kick in, as we’re taken for a ride along with the family, never sure if we should trust her or run for the hills. This sense of uneasiness adds to the viewing experience as the former student gradually becomes the master of the judge’s destiny. Those with a low threshold for gore need not fear, as Mélanie’s eventual grand plan carries great psychological weight for the judge’s family but never descends into gruesome physical payback.
Mélanie is played by relative newcomer Déborah Francois, a striking young beauty who keeps her character’s emotions buried beneath a beatific façade save the occasional sly hint of a smile. The judge is played by veteran Catherine Frot in a difficult role that forces her to convey all of the psychological impact of Mélanie’s actions. The production is presented in an economical, straight-forward style, keeping the focus firmly on the mental game of cat and mouse played out by its two leads.
Admittedly, a pianist out for revenge isn’t exactly the most terrifying idea, but the film is an interesting take on the dangers of pushing children to excel and the resulting psychological risks if they fail. Rather than relying on horrific acts of violence to drive home its theme, the film’s modest thrills show that in this case, revenge is a dish best served luke-warm.
The Page Turner is now playing in limited release in select cities across the country; check the film’s website for additional details.