MOKA: whodunit mixed with psychological thriller

Emannuelle Devos in MOKA

Emannuelle Devos in MOKA

In the atmospheric ticking clock drama Moka, Emanneulle Devos plays Diane, a Swiss woman whose daughter has been killed in a hit-and-run accident.  Months afterward, she is still consumed with grief.  Impatient with the slow and uncertain pace of the police investigation and with her husband’s attempts at finding closure, Diane launches her own investigation to find the responsible party and make them pay.

Diane starts connecting dots and begins to suspect Marlène (Nathalie Baye), a shopowner from a neighboring town in France.   Diane adopts the alias of Hélène and, creepily, begins to infiltrate Marlène’s life.  Moka is a whodunit mixed with psychological thriller – who is really the perp and what is Diane capable of doing?

I, for one, didn’t see the big plot twist coming.  Director Frédéric Mermoud adapted the screenplay from the Tatiana De Rosnay novel.

The prolific French actress Emanneulle Devos made a splash in 2001 with Read My Lips and popped up last year in the indie Frank & Lola.  Devos has a very compelling quality.  She excels at playing women who are very intense and possibly dangerous, women like Diane in Moka.

Nathalie Baye is the Meryl Streep of France, nominated ten times for France’s Best Actress award.  She started off in 1972 as Joëlle the script girl in Trauffaut’s Day for Night, and had risen to international stardom by 1982 and her performance in The Return of Martin Guerre – one of the greatest acting turns in all cinema. In Moka, Baye’s Marlène is a seemingly uncomplicated woman.  We correctly suspect that she’s  something else under the surface, but we don’t guess what that really is.  It’s great to see Baye take this supporting role and nail it.

Moka is a well-crafted fuse-burner and a showcase for two great actresses.

Nathalie Baye and Emmanuelle Devos in MOKA

Nathalie Baye and Emmanuelle Devos in MOKA

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