Red Lights (2004)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Marriage Drama, Psychological Thriller, Road Movie  |   Release Date - Sep 3, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Josh Ralske

Cédric Kahn's Red Lights is a tricky and tremendously engrossing film. Kahn is clearly a gifted filmmaker, setting up a dark domestic comedy as Antoine, an unhappy, self-pitying husband (superbly played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin) descends into a spiral of self-destructive behavior. Endless reports of traffic fatalities and an escaped convict sputter out in the background, foreshadowing the nightmare to come. Then Kahn slowly, skillfully drags his audience into the abyss. Antoine's distended nocturnal encounter with a potential murderer is a tense tour de force, surpassed by a seemingly simple scene the next morning in which the haggard husband borrows a phone in a pub and, with increasing desperation, tries to figure out what happened the night before. Kahn stages everything with great confidence and wit, knowing just what to show, and what to leave to the imagination. While things play out pretty much as one might expect them to, and the big twist of the film hinges on a pretty substantial contrivance, there's an undeniable psychological resonance to the couple's long, hostile silences as Antoine's passive aggressiveness gathers life-threatening momentum. The filmmakers subtly reject his retrograde sexual politics. The setup -- a weakling puts himself in harm's way to prove his manhood to his capable wife and to himself -- may seem obvious on the surface, but the skill of the execution and the teasing ambiguities of Antoine's self-inflicted ordeal combine to make Red Lights memorable.