Review: Bloody Oranges

Written and directed by Jean-Christophe Meurisse, co-written by Yohann Gloaguen and Amélie Philippe, a retired couple enter a dance contest, a corrupt politician, a girl eager to lose her virginity, and a young lawyer obsessed with social status. Starring: Alexandre Steiger, Christophe Paou, Lilith Grasmug, Olivier Saladin, Lorella Cravotta, Fred Blin, Denis Podalydès, Blanche Gardin, Céline Fuhrer, Florence Janas and Anthony Paliotti.

Going into this film aware that it’s a black comedy is still not going to prepare you for the depth it is willing to delve for that dark sense of humour. It’s unexpected in how bold, blunt and excessive it can be but while there are moments that you might want to cringe or look away, it never crosses the line. Outside of its brutal sense of humour, the key to why the story works so well is how it perfectly interlaces the lives of these different characters. It should be something simple but it isn’t, there are many that try and fail at doing multiple thread stories while these filmmakers excel at it. It moves at a brisk but easy to digest pace, it’s consistently entertaining and the way that it ups the stakes is unexpected and gripping. It also follows a classic theme of not making your characters inherently likable, they can be aggressive, annoying, self-involved but they never make you want to stop watching.

Right from the get-go the tone to Bloody Oranges is chaos, it’s manic, loud and almost a slap in the face upon opening with how much it has to throw at you. It’s absolutely relentless, almost like a mix of the two Quentins, Dupieux and Tarantino with a dash of Julia Ducournau but heavier on the comedy. There’s also a clean, sharp feel to its aesthetic, very modern and Jean-Christophe Meurisse takes influence from different genres to bring a variety and fresh feel to his direction. There is a huge amount packed into its hour and forty-five minutes and it’s handled skilfully. Holding your attention throughout and keeping you guessing because it leaves so much open to new possibilities.

It’s without question an ensemble piece, each of the actors create distinct personalities for their characters but none of them take the lead, this is a team effort. It’s especially impressive given that there isn’t actually that much time to get to know them and yet they each achieve such memorable performances. Alexandre Steiger and Christophe Paou give us the more traditional characters, men focused on success and image, with plenty of arrogance which will always be their downfall. Olivier Saladin and Lorella Cravotta give us a sweet and prideful couple, who create an interesting balance of a more classic sense of humour as well as leaning into the darkness. While Lilith Grasmug is the dark horse, youthful innocence but with a surprising power, she’s sympathetic and relatable but there’s more to her than you might initially think.

Bloody Oranges is unexpected, chaotic and strange but it’s also funny and entertaining. It holds a number of dark surprises, almost taking it as a challenge as to how black the comedy can be. It’s led by a superbly strong ensemble bringing a variety of personalities to the mix and all are hugely enjoyable to watch. It’s a film better watched than explained because it’s hard to describe why it’s delightfully odd without ruining it, but if you’re a fan of unusual, dark comedies then this is for you.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

In UK Cinemas from 16 September

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