Marcel Bellmer (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an author some might consider past his prime if it weren’t for his wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey), a powerful publisher, who makes sure his name is still relevant. Once celebrated for his best-selling novel Inexorable, he’s never been able to replicate its success, and lately he’s been knotted up with writer’s block. He’s hoping that moving in to his wife’s family’s sprawling country manor might be just the change of scenery to jolt his creativity. Jeanne and young daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy) accompany him, but since Jeanne is very busy with work, she engages a new nanny, Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi), who bonds immediately with Lucie.
As Marcel settles into his late father-in-law’s office, the old mansion groaning and moaning around him, the words still don’t come, but Gloria proves a welcome distraction. She cuts a sympathetic figure, a shy and lonely orphan grateful to be part of a family setting. She’s particularly drawn to Marcel, confessing her admiration for him and his work, insisting that Inexorable saved her life when things were particularly dark. But as she becomes increasingly entangled in the family, her presence becomes more threatening, and she becomes a lot less meek.
Director Fabrice Du Welz creates a creeping atmosphere as the setting for his drama. The estate is large enough to feel intimidating in itself, but there are always menacing corners, ominous shadows, places to hide, places to spy. Gloria is the snake lying in wait, full of secrets and shady intentions. Still, it’s Marcel’s own past that will haunt him the most. Du Welz and co-writers Joséphine Darcy Hopkins and Aurélien Molas use the framework to poke at the myth of the literary genius, but it goes much deeper than that. Every confrontation builds toward something (forgive me) inevitable. Even anticipating the worst, I couldn’t shake the dread, but needed the release of a long-promised boiling point. I wanted it and I feared it, and by golly I got it. But thanks to Du Welz’s vision and style, it was somehow expected but also a whole lot more.