Whether someone would enjoy “The Blue Room” or not depends on their predilection for French films. Those who are into mysteries may find something in this small film, but it is likely that casual moviegoers will be turned off by this heavily flawed art-house piece. While the film includes a stunning score and a tense atmosphere, it suffers from a sluggish pace, a short runtime and uninteresting characters.
Julien (Mathieu Amalric, who’s also the writer and director), a husband and father, finds himself in a sensual and twisted affair with Esther (Stéphanie Cléau), the wife of his pharmacist. As Julien begins to get cold feet and attempts to leave the affair before his wife (Léa Drucker) and young daughter (Mona Jaffart) find out, he becomes involved in a police investigation — although the audience is unaware why. The story then splits to two separate timelines — one where Julien tries to escape the clutches of his mistress, and another where he is questioned by the authorities.
Many of the film’s problems, including its confusing mystery and uninspiring characters, come from both a bad screenplay and a short runtime. If Amalric intends for the film to be short in order to challenge himself to present a more airtight mystery, then he fails due to the lack of clarity given to the plot; some portions of the story just don’t make much sense. For example, it’s completely unclear why Amalric keeps the investigation of Julien such a mystery. The reveal, treated like some unexpected twist, ends up being mediocre and unexciting.
There are some good elements in “The Blue Room” that, while unable to hold up the rest of the film, are nice to experience on their own. The musical score by Grégoire Hetzel is beautiful and helps lift the few passionate moments in the plot. The tense atmosphere is also well-created. While the mystery and thrilling aspects are lacking, the impending dread created through the combination of acting and music make it feel as if something intense is always just around the corner.
The acting is fine, but no one in particular manages to stand out. Amalric puts some passion in Julien, whose terror at his secret being discovered by his family feels authentic. Cléau is decent at making her character frightening as the mistress-turned-stalker, but she doesn’t get sufficient screen time to flesh out her character.
“The Blue Room” features many parts that simply fail to work together to create the artistic film that Amalric intended it to be. The runtime is simply too short for the story he envisioned, and it leaves the audience with a mystery and underdeveloped characters. The only positive aspects are a stunning musical score and a tense setting, neither of which save Amalric’s project from failing.