As I hinted at above, whether or not Henri Pick wrote the book will ultimately affect very little. Sure, Rouche was fired from his job as a TV show host, but that’s also largely due to him offending Pick’s widow with his on-air behaviour. Consequently, the script subtly distinguishes itself from other detective fiction, focusing less on the who and why and more on the how, given the holes in Rouche’s argument. It’s a smart change that ensures the audience still constantly asks questions like you’d expect in this genre, just different ones, all the while building up the enigma of its titular character.
I love a good mystery, so I was delighted to see the film transform into an investigation in its second and third acts as Rouche teams up with Pick’s daughter Joséphine (Camille Cottin). Although their antagonistic relationship eventually turns to friendship, the pair’s constant back-and-forth quips are a highlight of the film. Luchini as Rouche is the standout among the cast, with comedic timing and expressions perfect for the absurd scenes the writers clearly love putting him in. For instance, Luchini’s wide-eyed, incredulous fear during an interview with a macabre-obsessed book club makes a discussion of dismembering corpses quietly hilarious. However, Cottin’s Joséphine keeps the film grounded, reminding the audience just how painful it can be to have your memory of a loved one challenged. Films have taught me that detectives always work best in pairs, from Holmes and Watson, to Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, and THE MYSTERY OF HENRI PICK provides further proof.
Unfortunately, I found the first act slightly unfocused, even introducing Rouche then forgetting him for an extended period; as a result, his sudden transition into the protagonist role was initially jarring. It’s also not overly difficult to solve the film’s central mystery, though the writers do include some engaging red herrings which almost dissuaded me from my first (correct) theory. I suppose it depends on personal preference, but in my opinion, this genre is at its best when the audience is able to fit some or most of the pieces together, then have the characters or plot do the rest. Look no further than the gloriously dense conclusion of Knives Out for a great example of this. The answers given here are satisfying, but unsurprising.
At first glance, THE MYSTERY OF HENRI PICK reminds me of The Words, a seldom-discussed Bradley Cooper drama with a similar premise. Yet the former sets itself apart not only through its healthy doses of humour, and gorgeous shots of the peaceful French countryside, but by crafting a convincing mystery that keeps the audience curious and involved. It’s a film that reminds me of why I love classic whodunnits while managing to forge its own identity.