Some of Catherine Deneuve’s best performances have been in films of André Téchiné such as “My Favorite Season” (1992) and “Changing Times” (2004). Their seventh and latest collaboration, “In the Name of My Daughter”, directed and co-written by Téchiné, was a highlight of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York City. This fascinating film is inspired by real-life events in the struggle for control of a Riviera casino ending in a mysterious disappearance.
Renée Le Roux (Deneuve) runs the Palais de La Mediterranée casino in Nice. The role is appropriate for Deneuve who gives the part a cool elegance and a formidable presence in maintaining control of her casino.
Describing the character, Téchiné said that “Dressing up was part of her social ritual. Renée is like a goddess watching over her kingdom. But at the same time Renée Le Roux is probably the most resilient character out of all the characters Catherine Deneuve has ever played in my films. This character appears dominant, determined and ruthless and is the total opposite of the instability that was our chosen register (to capture the elusive)” in previous films.
Behind the scenes, a rival casino with mob ties is attempting to take over Renée’s casino. One of her trusted employees is lawyer Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet).
Renée’s recently divorced daughter Agnès (Adele Haenel) returns to France. Agnes wants an identity apart from the casino. Instead of seeing her mother right away, she swims at the beach. Both Renée and Agnès have casino shares as part of an inheritance.
When Maurice does not receive an expected promotion from Renée, he aligns himself with the rival mob-controlled casino. Openly involved with other women, he begins a relationship with Agnès.
Téchiné has created emotionally complicated characters and builds tension from their interactions. Haenel impressively conveys Agnès’ determination for a life apart from her mother’s casino, as well as her increasing dependence on Maurice. Canet, who directed “Tell No One”, effectively combines Maurice’s surface charm and cold manipulation. Maurice convinces Agnès to side with him and vote control of the Palais de La Mediterranée away from her mother.
Téchiné said a “war-like aspect structures the narrative” and “What I show is a social class in turmoil, its turf wars, its calculating, predatory nature; all of this is ‘political’ in this story about inheritance. The film shows the way in which the people caught up in this are affected. Money and the hunger for power are clearly at the centre of this story, but there is something more, in the subconscious, something impulsive.”
After Renée’s betrayal by Maurice and Agnès, Deneuve skillfully shows her character’s initial attempts to keep up appearances with a cool surface.
Events turn ominous when Agnès disappears. In an absorbing aspect of the film, Renée spends decades trying to discover her daughter’s fate, leading to a courtroom face-off with Maurice. Deneuve is very moving in these scenes, as a grey-haired Renée, her face full of anguish at the loss of her daughter, tenaciously fights on for justice for Agnès.