Moka (2016)

85% – Critics
71% – Audience

Moka Storyline

Consumed with grief and a silent rage over the loss of her teenage son who was killed in a hit-and-run, Diane, the devastated mother, takes the ferry across Lake Geneva to the spa town of Évian, in a desperate pursuit of the truth. Once there, the tragic mother armed with a well-concealed handgun and a graphic, yet incomplete description of the offending car will soon suspect that Marlène, the cryptic middle-aged salon owner, and her boyfriend, Michel, are somehow involved in the irremediable act. However, the path towards justice can be treacherous and serpentine, furthermore, will it make any difference finding the culprit behind the wheel?—Nick Riganas

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Moka Movie Reviews

Featuring the legendary French actress Natalie Baye!

“Moka” (2016 release from France and Switzerland; 90 min.) brings the story of Diane. As the movie opens, Diane flees a care center of some sort, and gets back home in Lausanne (Switzerland), where she unexpectedly runs into Michel, her husband from whom she is separated. Mention is made of an accident and the lagging police investigation in France. Turns out that their teenage son perished in a hit-and-run accident some months ago. With the help of a PI, Diane has been able to make a shortlist of possible suspects who meet the criteria (big brownish-colored car from France, and a couple in the car, of which a blonde woman was the driver). Diane heads over Evian (France), on the other side of lake Geneva, determined to find those responsible for her son’s death. At this point we’re 10 min. into to the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you’ll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: the (French) tag line of the movie is “What would you have done?”, and that boils it down to the movie’s essence: if your child had died in a hit-and-run and the police isn’t doing enough to locate the perpetrators, what would you as a parent do? Writer-director Frédéric Mermoud adds a couple of parallel stories but in the end they are nothing more than a side bar to the movie. The movie is cast as a “thriller drama”, but it is more drama (of the psychological kind) than it is a thriller. I was intrigued to see this for no other reason than seeing legendary French actress Natalie Baye, now a crisp 69 years young (and looking at least 10 years younger than that), here in the role of the blonde woman who may or may not have been the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle. The lead role of Diane is portrayed by Emmanuelle Devos. The movie was filmed on location and if you’ve been to the Lake Geneva area, you know that is a major plus. Bottom line: this was a pleasant film, but otherwise nothing earth-shattering or unique, featuring good acting performances and great scenery.

“Moka” opened this past weekend out of the blue and without pre-release hype or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Monday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well, but that is not surprising for a week day evening. If you are in the mood for a good 9without being revolutionary) foreign film, starring one of France’s legendary stars, you cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater (unlikely at this point), on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.

Modest Portrayal of Mother’s Grief

(Flash Review)

As the film opens, it appears a mother’s son was killed by a hit and run driver. With few facts provided to the police and their lack of progress, she seeks out cars and their owners that match a vague description. When she comes across a couple owners, she befriends them to learn about their whereabouts when he was killed several months ago. If she asks directly they’ll probably deny it. Will she track down the person responsible, hold them accountable and reconcile her personal grieving? This was a normal film about the mother’s quest as well as a medium emotion dive into her grief. It was fine, nothing special; well-acted and produced.

The DVD also has a bonus short film titled Le Créneau from the same director. A random story about being late when in a hurry. (4/10)

on the two shores of the lake

Lake Lehman and the surrounding mountains are an extremely suitable landscape for the genre of psychological thrillers. The calm and glacial beauty of the places always seems to hide a threatening subtext, just as the impeccable politeness of the locals is too perfect not to suspect smoldering and strong dramas, or conflicts well-buried under the Swiss cleanliness, punctuality and civility. To the well-stocked list of thriller films that successfully use this background I can now add ‘Moka’, a film released in 2016, which can be described as a psychological drama with nuances of thriller and detective story, based on a novel written by the successful writer Tatiana De Rosnay and directed by Frédéric Mermoud.

The story of the film takes place on the shores of Lake Lehman. Diane (Emmanuelle Devos) lives in Lausanne, on the Swiss shore of the lake. She lost her teenage son a few months ago in an accident involving a vintage car with a French plate and an unusual mocha color. A private detective provides her with information that four cars corresponding to the description exist in Evian, on the opposite French shore. Diane will cross the lake in search of those responsible for the accident. The search leads after a while to a couple that corresponds to all suspicions, in whose life our hesitant heroine will infiltrate. The reasons for her actions are unclear, at least at first. Distrust of the police? The need of revenge? The desire to get closer, over death, to the son whose life she begins to learn more about only after he has disappeared? The motto of the film is ‘what would you have done in her place?’ The answer is not simple.

‘Moka’ offers quite a lot of reasons of satisfaction, first of all through the excellent acting of Emmanuelle Devos, an actress that I like enormously, who lives here intensely the role of the grieving and confused mother, who can not find here peace until the truth about the death of her son comes to light. The secondary romantic threads (the relationship with the husband from whom she is separated, the fling with the younger man met on the boat crossing the lake) find their rightful place in the action and add a new dimension to the woman’s portrait. Nathalie Baye takes the role of the woman suspected of being involved in the fatal accident. She’s OK, not more. The drama of the confrontation between the two women becomes more important than whosdunit intrigue. Questions about finding the mental balance after such immense trauma, the need for punishment and justification of revenge take precedence. If I had anything to reproach to director Frédéric Mermoud that would be the too clean, too … Swiss approach of his directing of the whole story. Relying on excellent acting and on the cold beauty of the landscapes, it seems to me that he misses the opportunity to add a personal touch. Anyway, we are left with a good film, a psychological thriller and a very well told and excellently played post-traumatic drama, which is worth its watching time.