[Movie Review] THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU

[Movie Review] THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU, or as it’s titled in the original French, JACKY CALLIOU, comes from first-time director Lucas Delangle. While Delangle has dabbled in shorts and writing for one other movie, I’m shocked to see that this is Delange’s first time leading a major picture.

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU stars Thomas Parigi as the titular character and co-stars Edwige Blondiau, Lou Lampros, and Georges Isnard. Again, I’m astounded that, apart from Lou Lampros, no one else has anything on their IMDb. If you had told me that these were seasoned actors, I would have believed you in a heartbeat. But what is THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU? And why is it so strange?

Jacky is a young man trying to find his way in life in the French Alps, living with his grandmother, the small town’s healer. Jacky is the type of man who means well, but from the isolation, doesn’t know where he belongs or where to fit in. He’s liked well enough but lives in the shadow of his kind and wise grandmother (Edwige Blondiau).

While she doesn’t push her trade onto him, he feels the burden of her gift and the respect she receives from the villagers. He tries to also harness this gift of healing but finds it awkward and difficult. Soon a young woman (Lou Lampros) arrives in the village, seeking help for a mysterious rash. However, as soon as the healing starts to relieve her sickness, Jacky’s grandmother suddenly passes away.

Left alone, Jacky must decide whether he’s able to take up the mantle of the healer, and even if he’s able to, can he save this woman? And, more importantly, at what cost?

A slowburn genre blend

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU is a slow burn that I wouldn’t actually label as much of a horror but as a coming-of-age drama with horror elements. It’s one of those films that is not just one genre but is a Venn diagram of different genres and flavors. Built on a multitude of expressions, it’s a movie of big feelings, but little words.

It takes the horror aspect and dabbles it into the film, but that’s not what the film is about. There’s gore (especially animal gore, so this is your warning), blood, fear, and despair like any other horror movie, but it’s quiet and thoughtful. It takes a well-known monster “villain” and explores it through a different lens.

The character of Jacky is soft, maybe slow. He gets overwhelmed easily and is perhaps a bit lazy in the first act, but is (as his grandmother states) “a good boy.” He cares. He’s sensitive. He makes music from sounds he collects around his isolated home. He’s shy with his interactions, even with friends.

So, by the time he meets the mysterious and beautiful Elsa, he’s immediately smitten, but much more than that, he genuinely wants to help her. The sad fact is that he has to go against his own people to do so, knowing they would never understand what he understands.

To be able to portray all of that in such a short time and with little dialogue takes heavy shoulders, and that’s why I’m purely baffled that this is Lucas Delangle’s first feature film. Everything is tight – the characters’ emotions, the weight of each scene, and the rising climax. This is a love letter to small villages, their people, and the lore of monsters.

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU ‘s look and feel

All this could not have been done without the work of cinematographer Mathieu Gaudet who is incredible. Utterly incredible. If I ever taught a class on cinematography, I would be talking about Mathieu Gaudet. The focus on Jacky’s hands as the movie progresses was engaging and shot with such beautiful intent. Each scene of THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU could tell a hundred stories. Using the landscape so artistically was flawlessly executed. I wrote in my notes at one point, “Stop shooting so beautifully!” It’s such a precise and raw style, I was transfixed. Best cinematography I’ve seen in a while and I need more of him.

The one thing, unfortunately, that I don’t need more of was the music, which could be loud and jarring, especially moments when it went from whisper-quiet to LOUD MUSIC suddenly. However, the songs that Jacky made and sang were lovely and had an experimental, low-fi vulnerability to them.

Two things that people might contend with are the pacing, which is slow in the way that Hold the Dark was in certain parts. Hold the Dark was much more action-packed, but didn’t have the heart that THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU does. As I said, this is very much a coming-of-age tale. It’s about a young man learning his boundaries, his passions, and his abilities. The other is the ending, which may not be the ending that you want, but the ending that makes sense for Jacky.

So, if you’re looking for a popcorn and milk duds flick, THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU isn’t it. Save your money. But if you’re looking for a genre-bending film set in the French countryside that is horror-adjacent, THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CALLIOU is just what the healer ordered.

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU is now in theaters in LA and NY and will be on DVD and Digital on April 11, 2023.

J.M. Brannyk
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