Red Lights

One of my pet peeves is with movies that are marketed with all these quotes from critics calling it "White-knuckle suspense in the grand tradition of Hitchcock!" "A terrific Hitchcockian thriller!" "The Master would be proud!" Aside from the fact that nothing can truly be called Hitchcockian, because no filmmaker is Hitchcock, distributors almost always attach these quotes to quiet, cerebral little foreign dramas – often French – and Red Lights is the latest to win these false accolades.

I guess this marketing ploy gets butts in theaters – it did mine – but although Red Lights is a very interesting little film, to call it a suspense picture is, in a word, misleading. If I had no idea what to expect, I probably would have been less disappointed.

The story: An embittered married couple embarks on a summer holiday in heavy traffic. What's different about this trip is that the husband (a truly excellent Jean-Pierre Darroussin), not normally a drinker, has decided to get himself sloshed, secretly, without his wife's knowledge.

When one too many stops at roadside bars finally incites the wife to storm off alone to a nearby train station, the husband tries in vain to find her – though it doesn't keep him from making one more visit to a local bar, where he picks up a hitchhiker who may or may not be a dangerous escaped convict. There is some suspense here, but it's so underplayed that it doesn't detract from what the film really is: a character portrait of a weak man coming to terms with his feelings of inadequacy.

Although the story comes to a surprisingly tidy conclusion, it nevertheless leaves so many juicy questions about what really happened, and what the husband actually remembers from his drunken haze, that my girlfriend and I actively discussed on the ride home. That happens rarely enough that I would recommend Red Lights to anybody who enjoys a little post-art-film conversation.