It has been twenty years since the funeral of Victor Dardelin, the churchyard crowded as the coffin was lowered to the gentle singing of crew of the ship he captained, a funeral in cold rain which failed to wash away the grief of his widow Elizabeth, still living alone in the house they shared, his clothes still in the wardrobe, the portraits he painted of her adorning every wall, persistent reminders of her beauty and lost love.
Into this comes Julie Moreau, the lodger, a student nurse who needs a place to stay who is at first charmed by Elizabeth’s welcome but increasingly aware of her eccentricity, still speaking of Victor as though he were alive, laying out his clothes every morning. “After the accident, my mother never accepted my father’s death,” her daughter states, exasperated after a visit which left Elizabeth visibly upset.
Trained to be caring and meticulous, Julie automatically leaps to the defence of her friend yet she is aware that all is not as it should be, Catherine discussing events which occurred unwitnessed when she was out of the house, saying that Victor told her; is she a kindly and well-meaning but slightly dotty old woman, coping with her loneliness through fantasy, or is there a presence in the house which watches Julie as she works, as she bathes and lies sleeping?
Her name synonymous with mature sophistication, the great Jacqueline Bisset is Elizabeth Dardelin, a complex woman whose behaviour and capricious moods border on the inexplicable, welcoming and nurturing yet capable of a venomous jealousy, of Julie’s youth and the life she has before her, and deeply possessive of the memory of her husband who she believes Julie is trying to steal from her.
Directed by Baptiste Drapeau from a script written by Ollivier Briand, Alice Isaaz is The Lodger, an outsider who comes to share Elizabeth’s madness, folie à deux, disappointed by the juvenile behaviour of her peers and finding she has more in common with a woman twice her age who once swam in an ocean of possibilities but now lives a life of regret, and hell hath no fury like a black widow scorned.
The film moving between a gentle hesitancy in each action before it becomes deliberate and irrevocable, The Lodger is more an abstract mystery than horror or thriller but the vagueness of the dreamlike plot is offset by Bisset, still a screen presence in her seventies, Elizabeth revelling in her undiminished magnificence even as she tries to erase her past and any competition for her imagined happiness.
The Lodger will be available on digital download and DVD from Monday 18th October