Ne Te Retourne Pas

Jeanne (Sophie Marceau) is a novelist who’s married with two kids. After a not so successful conversation with her publisher, Jeanne sees a young girl on the street, running away from her. Which doesn’t sound so extraordinary.
Nor is it special that she notices her husband and kids have put the table on a different position. But they claim they’ve never touched the room and photographs seem to back up their story. And that ain’t all: Jeanne has the weird feeling his family is making odd movements behind her back. That’s enough to make anyone mad! Or is it??

I must admit the premise of Ne Te Retourne Pas is so unbelievable I actually had a hard time not laughing out loud in my local cinema. “Goodie,” I thought, it’s finally arrived: the first feng shui horror movie!” The way Jeanne freaks out about a table being moved a couple of inches is simply ludicrous.
Sadly, this sort of problem with a lot of modern French cinema: in L’Empreinte de l’Ange Cathérine Frot also gets on your nerves so much you lose all sympathy for the character (in Frot’s case a woman who believes a young girl is her dead daughter). In Ne Te Retourne Pas Jeanne is so neurotic (or, let’s face it, quite a bitch) you can’t find sympathy for her major problem of not remembering which direction the table was pointing to.
However, don’t give up on Ne Te Retourne Pas (or Don’t Look Back, to use its international title): things get better as Jeanne gets madder.

Yes, after a while Jeanne has more problems recognizing stuff or even people. After a while she doesn’t even recognize her children or her husband. And by this time you – yeah, you, the cynical type who was mocking the film by calling it a feng shui horror movie – get inside Jeanne’s head. Because sometimes you actually see Jeanne’s delusions. People change while you’re watching them and you start disbelieving your own eyes… “Surely that person’s face didn’t just change?” Yes, it did.

It’s not often you hear me say this, but the special effects actually warmed me up for this film. And things don’t stop there: after her apartment and family have changed, Jeanne suddenly sees a new face in the mirror. Jeanne has become another Jeanne (Monica Bellucci). What is going on? The only clue Jeanne finds to her changing world is an old photograph from an old trip to Spain. Maybe she’ll find the answer there…

Are you intrigued? I can imagine you are and let’s face it, Ne Te Retourne Pas feels like a different sort of movie. And there’s not much to complain about the second part of the film: once Jeanne (Belluci) leaves France, the film finally gets on the right track. Now, don’t believe I’m blaming Marceau: she’s actually quite good as a character losing her mind (or thinking she does). And yes, I assume it’s horrid to watch your entire world suddenly being different from how you’d always imagined it. Having to believe a total stranger saying he’s your husband while not even being able to recognize yourself in a mirror. But because of Jeanne’s many tantrums in the beginning of the film (the table has moved!!!) you can’t feel empathy with a woman being unable to find her way home. Much like the aforementioned L’Empreinte de l’Ange where Frot’s character is so neurotic you feel like bringing her to a mental institution yourself. By the time the films nears its twist climax (Frot wasn’t mad, her baby daughter hadn’t died in a fire but was saved by a childless woman who’d raised her as her own), you feel unwilling to accept the twist and end up with the sensation two hours of your life have been completely wasted.

That Ne Te Retourne Pas manages to recover from this is proof that the second half of this film is pretty darn good. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you see the director is also the writer of the film. Her name is Marina de Van and you may not recognize the name, but she also wrote a couple of François Ozon movies (Les Amants Criminels, Sous Le Sable and 8 Femmes). Amants was another movie that suffered from a premise I couldn’t cope with (it was partially saved by the excellent actors Jérémie Renier and Natacha Régnier), but 8 Femmes proved de Van could come up with a climax that sounded odd but acceptional at the same time. Ne Te Retourne Pas was her directing debut and she may have shot herself in the food by describing Jeanne’s initial world with unnecessary scenes (much of the backstory was unneeded and only helped you getting irritated by this neurotic woman)… but de Van manages to pull you back into the film with the second part of her story.

Which brings us to the final score and that’s 4/10. However, when this movie will be shown on tv I will record it, which I may not do with every movie I’ll give a score of 5.5 or 6 to. Ne Te Retourne Pas may not be good, but it’s an interesting failure and it deserves your attention as much as well-made but brainless popcorn fodder. In fact, in a couple of years time you’ll say: “Oh, Ne Te Retourne Pas, that was that half-arsed movie with the changing faces.” But you’ll still remember it and in a way, doesn’t that count too?

Here’s the (French) teaser:

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