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Original title: Le jeu

aka The Game

D: Fred Cavayé / 92m

Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Suzanne Clément, Stéphane De Groodt, Vincent Elbaz, Grégory Gadebois, Doria Tillier, Roschdy Zem, Fleur Fitoussi

Seven friends gather together for a dinner party, held at the home of cosmetic surgeon Vincent (De Groodt) and his wife, therapist Marie (Bejo). Joining them are newlyweds Thomas (Elbaz) and Léa (Tillier), who have decided to try for a baby; distant married couple Charlotte (Clément) and Marco (Zem); and single friend Ben (Gadebois), who should be bringing his new girlfriend for everyone to meet, but who turns up alone as she’s fallen ill. A discussion about mobile phones and the secrets they may contain leads to Marie suggesting they all play a game: if anyone receives a call, or a text, or an e-mail, that person has to answer the call (with the loudspeaker on), or read out their texts and e-mails for the whole group to hear. The “game” starts off innocently enough, but it’s not long before some of the calls prove uncomfortable for the people receiving them. As the evening continues, secrets are revealed and relationships find themselves under threat, as the seven friends begin to realise that perhaps they don’t know each other as well as they thought…

One of a staggering eight remakes of Perfect Strangers (2016) that have been made in the past two years (and soon to be joined by four more), Nothing to Hide cleaves faithfully to the original set up, both in the secrets it reveals and the physical layout of Vincent and Marie’s apartment; there’s even a balcony for the friends to gather on when it comes time to take a group selfie. And although imitation is apparently the sincerest form of flattery, what Cavayé does with his adaptation, which he also scripted, is to take the pressure cooker atmosphere of Paolo Genovese’s original and dial it down to make it more recognisably French. There are outbursts, there is anger, but these aspects are much more subdued, and Cavayé’s decision to apply a degree of subtlety to the material helps the movie achieve a different kind of impact, one that fits the minor changes made to the narrative, and the overall approach. Here, there are silences and periods where the characters are forced to examine their indiscretions and lies that offer painful reminders that we all keep secrets, even and sometimes especially, from our loved ones. But is the price we invitably pay, ever worth it?

As with the original, the movie retains the curveball that marred Genovese’s ending, but somehow Cavayé makes it work, and with a wistfulness that feels completely in keeping with what’s gone before. He’s also assembled a terrific ensemble cast, with each getting a chance to shine, and each getting the measure of their characters. This leads to insights and revelations about each of the friends that help add layers to the narrative and which also allows the viewer to feel a degree of sympathy for each one – but especially Marco, who acts bravely but misguidedly to protect one of the others. Bejo and De Groodt are a convincing couple, and as the duo least affected by the fallout from the game, act as our touchstones as things get worse; they’re also at the centre of the movie’s best scene, when Vincent has to deal with a difficult and emotive issue concerning their daughter, Margot (Fitoussi). Elsewhere, Denis Rouden’s deft camerawork and framing catches reactions and behavourial tics that might otherwise go unmissed, and Mickael Dumontier’s restrained yet intuitive editing style ensures Rouden’s efforts are maximised for the best impact. It’s a French take on a universal story, and infused with a great deal of charm and wit, and as a cautionary tale – be careful of the games you play – very enjoyable indeed.

Rating: 8/10 – a rare remake that improves on the original, Nothing to Hide is a dramedy that often hits close to home in the way that it exposes the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep secrets; unexpectedly sobering at times, and laugh out loud funny at others, it does flirt uncomfortably with homophobia at one point, but overall this is an intelligent, entertaining remake that has its own style and its own way of being relevant.

NOTE: Apologies for the dubbed and subtitled trailer – sometimes you just can’t win!