Olivier, Olivier is a hauntingly elliptical, visually mesmerizing revelation of a puzzling mystery. The story is set on the sweeping French countryside where Serge Duval (Francois Cluzet), a veterinarian, lives with his wife, Elisabeth (Brigitte Rouan) and their two young children. One day, while on an errand to deliver food to his ailing grandmother, the cherubic Olivier (Emmanuel Morozof) vanishes without a trace. The disappearance of a child is heartbreaking for anyone to endure; for the Duvals, the experience leads to the disintegration of their family (note the symbolism of the furniture burning). Elisabeth, unable to accept the loss of her favorite child, redirects her anguish and guilt at everyone. Serge, frustrated by his wife’s hysterical tirades, abandons his family for a veterinary post in Chad. Several years later, Olivier seemingly resurfaces in the form of a teenage Parisian hustler (Gregoire Colin). His parents quickly embrace his return, hesitant to pry into his lost years, and only his older sister Nadine (Marina Golovine), perhaps resentful of the lavished attention on the prodigal son, questions his identity. Olivier, Olivier is a subtly mystical and insidiously captivating film.
Agnieszka Holland’s signature style of infusing supernatural elements and hyperbolic imagery is evident throughout the film. Note the children’s hunt for extra-terrestrials, Nadine’s telekinesis, and story telling and fairy tales (specifically the parallel between the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and Olivier’s disappearance). Similar to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, this technique symbolizes awakening, the unraveling of a fantasy, the loss of innocence. Olivier, Olivier is a fascinating and powerfully seductive film about lost youth and the aftermath of an unconscionable nightmare.
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