“If I were suddenly free, could you free yourself, too?” It’s a question posed by a married woman, Esther (Stéphanie Cléau), to her married lover, Julien (Mathieu Amalric), as they lie tangled in elegant sheets in a blue-wallpapered room at a quiet hotel.
And, just like that, this tidy little French thriller makes an abrupt shift in tone: Suddenly, Julien’s in a police station, handcuffed, answering questions about a not-yet-named crime.
“Life is different,” he says, in frustration over trying to recall details, “when you condense it and go back over it after.”
“The Blue Room,” brief (just 75 minutes) and taut, keeps bringing us back to that hotel room, as it gradually fills in the details. We meet Julien’s wife, Delphine (Léa Drucker); learn more details of the affair; watch the frozen, rigid grin Julien affects when at home with his family. All the while, music that would not be out of place in a Hitchcock film (the score’s by Gregoire Hetzel) entwines around the characters like ropes, ever-tightening.
Amalric, who directed and co-wrote the film, lets us realize gradually what happened between those two early scenes.
It’s an accomplished film, if a bit cool and tidy; you wish there were a little more to it.
But there’s something haunting in the way “Blue Room” keeps circling back to that conversation in bed; words left dangling in the air, we’re reminded, are as dangerous as any weapon.