The Night Of The 12th – Review

Release Date – 31st March 2023, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 54 minutes, Director – Dominik Moll

A group of detectives encounter multiple dead ends in the search for a culprit of the murder of a young woman.

The opening text and voiceover of The Night Of The 12th lets us know that 20% of murders in France are never sold, and that this is one of those stories. To some extent this is the early faltering of the film as it’s admitted at the very beginning that there isn’t a conclusion to the central case. Much of the first half is taken up with newly-promoted police captain Yohan (Bastien Bouillon) and his fellow detective Marceau (Bouli Lanners), alongside the rest of the department, questioning various suspects and figures with relationships to the murdered Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier). They go from ex-boyfriend to ex-boyfriend, each with their own different views on how they were actually involved with the deceased, and repeatedly back to her best friend (Pauline Serieys) trying to work out who was the person to burn her to death late at night.

Knowing that the case goes unsolved removes something from these various strands, which almost feel back-to-back for much of the first half of the slow-burn narrative. Instead of creating interest it creates more thought as to where the film is actually going, is it just going to be scenes in different rooms and homes asking about how people knew Clara? It certainly seems as if it is. While certain other character dramas come into play – Marceau is going through a divorce after his wife had an affair – they never quite feel fully slotted into the surrounding narrative, and occasionally feel as if they come from nowhere.

Points are made about gender balance in the police, including how predominantly men will investigate crimes done by predominantly other men, yet these comments are simply made and don’t actually seem to go anywhere despite some promise during one or two scenes. They’re largely brought up as we begin to get more developments in the case, at least outside of questioning. As more action is taken the cycle is broken as there’s a bit more to find interest in and be engaged in. What has come beforehand has been generally watchable, if repetitive, but there feels to be more going on in the second half, especially in regards to the investigation which takes up much of the films concerns, while still keeping the slow-burn nature.

Things may still be disturbed due to the fact that you know there’s no conclusion to the case but it tries to push things forward with character drama for the central characters. It comes very late in the day and doesn’t quite get the progression it may need, but it does help to make it about more than just the case. It shows in scenes long after the case is first opened where Bouillon’s captain is clearly struggling to see why he should keep it open, despite the otherwise statements of a judge (Anouk Grinberg). There’s something in Yohan’s growing frustrations which help to push the progression and developments of the case, they might not be given a full light very often, but they certainly help when present. Particularly when moving on from the repetitive nature of the earlier stages, and the fact we know there’s no conclusion to the largely-focused-on case from the very start.

While a generally watchable slow burn The Night Of The 12th makes a mistake in telling us the central case is never solved from the very start, character dramas are brought in but never quite given enough focus to become prominent, even with more developments in the second half.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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