Fantastic Fest Review: Alleluia Smothers You With Tough Love

ON

file_176571_0_shock-score-7.90x72Allaluia posterLove is a crazy thing. Sometimes it can be sweet and tender, other times an all-consuming nightmare. Alleluia presents a deadly love affair that is a smothering and exhaustive experience. It begins with good intentions then reveals a dark underbelly that sends its audience down one messed up rabbit hole of obsession, fetishes and dependency issues. Director Fabrice Du Welz (Calvaire) blindsides you with his aesthetic decisions making Alleluia one nutty, enthralling experience.

Gloria (Lola Duenas) is a single mom who is fitfully putting herself back out on the dating market. We know little about her previous relationship, but it really, really did not go well. Maybe that’s why she takes to Michel (Laurent Lucas also of Calvaire) so quickly. He’s charming, ambitious and a smooth talker. After a night of making love, she comes to learn he’s also a swindler who seduces women, takes their money and then goes on his merry way. Gloria, naturally, freaks out, but sees there’s a connection between them. She agrees to stay with Michel and work by his side, posing as his sister while he enters into fleeting relationships with other women. As long as they’re together, Gloria is seemingly happy.

Things get bloody, however, when Gloria decides she needs to eliminate the women Michel is courting and becoming physical with. Prone to truly scary freak-outs, Gloria is showing a psychopathic side and Michel finds the right recipe to assuage her insanity. This crumbling relationship comes to a head when Michel and Gloria target another single mother that Michel may genuinely have feelings for.

Once Alleluia grabs you, it doesn’t let go. You’re in it. Thrust into the middle of Michel and Gloria’s toxic chemistry. Duenas is a ticking time bomb to be rightfully feared. The power is in her eyes and when she has her “freak outs” you lose track of those eyes and the danger feels real. She’s like the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil come to life. Lucas, meanwhile, handles Michel’s reactions wonderfully and there are some intriguing nuances to Michel that lend amusing shades to the character.

Du Welz never wants you to feel comfortable with this pair. His coverage is intimate, full of claustrophobic close-ups. The violence is unflinching. There’s an attack on someone with an axe that is quite shocking, not just in visual approach but in sound design.

Alleluia is a welcome return to form for Du Welz who last directed Vinyan in 2008. It’s quirky, frank and perhaps a little familiar to those of you out there who may have endured a relationship with a “crazy” significant other just to avoid being alone.

Minus the murder and body disposal, of course.