“We cannot make do with only one side.”Maître Célerier
A fascinating but uncomfortable experience, The Accusation explores the impact of a rape accusation on two families and the ambiguity in our perception of intent. A structural conceit is central to the film, delivering two different perspectives of the aftermath whilst avoiding the event itself. The initial police interviews are followed by a 30-month time jump to the trial, omitting the investigation as that is not the point and nor, perhaps, is the truth — or rather Yvan Attal wishes to demonstrate that two perspectives may simultaneously be true. Having first seen Alexandre’s perspective, it is deliberately easy to believe him even as Mila begins to tell a conflicting story. Although each set of parents rallies around their child, we see their varied concerns: from damaged prospects (for both the accused and the accuser) to a broken relationship and whether their unconditional support is even correct. In a film that is often more intellectual than emotional, the most affecting performance is Charlotte Gainbourg’s as Alexandre’s mother: we see her first as an ardent feminist advocate espousing rhetoric against migrant rapists, knowing the danger of her words being adopted by the far right, suddenly conflicted when an accusation is levelled at her own son, coupled with guilt that she set the stage in a misguided attempt to solidify her new relationship with Mila’s father. There is also a brief but intriguing subplot with Alexandre’s famous father, a philanderer whom we see seduce an intern, an event that seems exploitative because we are now primed to perceive it that way given the imbalance in power. There are several discussions about the “violence” of words (and the trial itself), given their ability to cause tangible harm in our society in addition to emotional trauma. The neutral flashbacks we see during the trial are deliberately inconclusive and arguably serve little purpose — indeed this evasiveness will frustrate viewers approaching The Accusation as a straightforward thriller. However, it does provide for a powerful closing shot that should leave its audience reflective, if not entirely satisfied, as the credits roll.