"Moka Review" - Utterly Gripping

Diane Kramer (Emmanuelle Devos) is led by one obsession: to find the driver of the mocha color Mercedes which hit her son and devastated her life

Sophisticated well done thrillers are scarce, certainly on this side of the Atlantic.  Moka, a tale of loss and revenge, portrays a Swiss mother obsessively intent on finding and punishing the person who killed her son in a hit-and-run accident.   It is a tragic and riveting story.  Her search for the killer has become an obsession.  The film opens in a hospital, with Diane, the mother, now a patient, probably the result of a breakdown.   She sneaks out and returns home, where, separated from her husband, she lives alone and sometimes imagines her son standing nearby, watching her.  The police are investigating but have so far come up empty-handed.   Diane hires a private detective who has interviewed a witness who described a large, pale brown car, likely a BMW or Mercedes, driven by a blonde woman.   He has also managed to get a list of those makes, all pale brown, registered in the area.  The film's title is, of course, the color of the car.  Diane begins to drive around to each address, looking at the cars and their owners.   The first is owned by an elderly couple, whose wife isn’t physically capable of driving, so that rules her out.  Working her way down the list, she eventually spots a Mercedes with a recently repaired front fender, driven by a blonde woman of a certain age.  And here the story really begins, becoming increasingly suspenseful with some real surprises. 

Nathalie Baye


Nathalie Baye and Emmanuelle Devos

Moka is by Swiss director, Frederic Mermoud, who has produced a number of short films but is not generally well known in the US.  Adapted from a recent novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, the film makes a strong feminist statement in its portrayal of two formidable, determined women.  The acting is first rate. The mother is played by Emmanuelle Devos (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) and the blonde, Marlene, by Nathalie Baye, more familiar to American viewers from her more than 80 films since 1970.  The first third of the film tales place virtually without words, but then the dialogue between these two women becomes everything.  Cinematography is excellent, both in the many night scenes and the views of the gorgeous local scenery, including Lake Geneva.   Close-ups of both women dominate the film, serving as a kind of silent dialogue.  The soundtrack is lovely: mixed classical and popular songs.   Diane’s murdered son was a student musician, so the classical pieces emphasize her loss.  The pacing and power of this film accelerate half way through to become utterly gripping.  I loved Moka and thought it a film whose subtlety contributed greatly to its impact.   For many reasons, including its setting, see this on the large screen.   Just opened at Opera Plaza and the Shattuck (Berkeley).  Running time: 89 minutes.  Have a good summer.  Ciao, Ian

Photos: Courtesy of Pyramide Films

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