When most people talk about Titane, they tend to start with the main character getting pregnant by having sex with a Cadillac, the weaponized hair sticks or the serial killing. But the film’s extremities obscure the tender story at its core, which is where Vincent Lindon comes into the picture.
Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Titane is the story of a young woman, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who, while on the run from the authorities after a killing spree, passes herself off as Adrien, the long-missing son of a fire captain named Vincent (Lindon), who has seen his marriage collapse and life stagnate in the years his son has been gone. While Rousselle is undoubtedly an exciting discovery, navigating the film’s outré body horror, there is something about Lindon, a respected, award-winning 60-something actor who went through some two years of physical training to prepare for the part, that also feels truly new. As Vincent the character works to maintain the façade of masculinity, secretly injecting himself with steroids to maintain his hardened physique, Lindon the actor explores the struggle beneath that exterior and all that is broken inside of him.
In a film full of striking images, few are as memorable as Lindon losing himself while dancing, first alone and then with Adrien/Alexia, his heavy body suddenly weightless and floating, free of his burdens. Exactly when he comes to realize that Alexia isn’t really Adrien isn’t entirely clear because it comes to not much matter, as these two lonely, lost souls have found something beautiful and rare in each other — recognition, understanding and acceptance.
— Mark Olsen
The Power of the Dog
It would be easy to underestimate him, but it would also be a mistake.
With his haunting wide eyes and pale, lanky frame, Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Peter is a natural target for ridicule by the manly men of 1925 Montana in Jane Campion’s exquisite drama The Power of the Dog. He seems otherworldly within this rough and dusty setting. But those eyes see everything, and that unassuming demeanor allows him to slip around, lie in wait and plot his revenge.
His primary attacker is Phil Burbank, a caustic old-school cowboy played with shattering rage and simmering heartache by Benedict Cumberbatch. And it’s a testament to Smit-McPhee’s purpose, and his performance, that we feel his presence even when he’s absent because of the suppressed yearnings he’s stirred in Phil.
But just as Phil’s treatment of Peter evolves and softens over the course of the film, keeping us guessing as to his true intentions, Peter’s sweet demeanor seems to belie some darker intentions. With the subtle flicker of his eyes or the slightest change of inflection in his voice, Smit-McPhee heightens the film’s feeling of mystery; the scene in which he and Cumberbatch silently share a cigarette in the barn will make you hold your breath, the tension is so agonizing.
But to borrow from Maya Angelou, Peter shows us who he is the first time: The film’s opening words are his, in voiceover, describing how he feels it’s his duty to protect his widowed mother, Rose (Kirsten Dunst). She also finds herself mired in Phil’s ire once she marries his kindhearted brother, George (Jesse Plemons). But the steady, solitary handiwork that fills Peter’s days, from crafting delicate flowers out of paper to carving up a rabbit to explore its insides, indicates the kind of planning and attention to detail that ultimately will allow him to triumph. He has experienced trauma, and he is a survivor. But the newfound confidence with which Smit-McPhee carries himself by the end lets you know this complicated kid is going to be OK.
— Christy Lemire