Films & Schedules

  • L' Empreinte de l'ange
    The Mark of an Angel

  • Safy Nebbou

95 minutes

Production Company:
Diaphana/ France 2 Cinéma
Michel Saint-Jean
Safy Nebbou, Cyril Gomez-Mathieu
Production Designer:
Cyril Gomez-Mathieu
Eric Guichard
Bernard Sasia
Rodolphe Vassails
Hugues Tabar-Nouval
Principal Cast: Catherine Frot, Sandrine Bonnaire, Wladimir Yordanoff, Antoine Chappey, Michel Aumont

Canadian Distributor:
Seville Pictures
International Sales Agent:
Celluloid Dreams

Friday September 0507:15PM VARSITY 8 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Tuesday September 0909:00AM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

A mother knows. Great acts of heroism can come from that gut, maternal certainty. In L'Empreinte de l'ange, it can also drive a woman to far more disturbing behaviour. With two of France's finest actors taking on roles of mothers with something to defend, the result is a drama of constantly building tension.

Elsa (Catherine Frot) is locked in a custody battle with her ex-husband. Whether she wins care of her son depends on her stability, but immediately one senses that this may be a challenge. As she picks the boy up from a birthday party, she notices a little girl. Something clicks. Elsa begins to follow the girl, strangely curious about every detail of her life. Of course this girl has a family of her own. Once her mother Claire (played by the always excellent Sandrine Bonnaire) discovers that her daughter is being stalked for unknown reasons, her own maternal instincts rise to their full strength.

Director Safy Nebbou coaxes the initial spark of the film's premise into a slow burn of suspense. Never giving too much away at once, he builds a sense of unease that is all the more chilling because it plays out entirely in the domestic sphere. This is a world of school drop-offs, weekend classes and backyard play. And yet one woman has clearly begun to covet another woman's child. So when Elsa enters Claire's home under false pretenses, the threat is palpable. And when she tracks Claire and her daughter to a local skating rink, the scene carries sudden undercurrents of real danger.

Both Frot and Bonnaire, who worked with Nebbou on Le Cou de la girafe (which played at the Festival in 2004), rise to the material. With its shades of stalker instability, Frot's role is trickier, but she balances her characters' extremes with the sincere pragmatism of any committed mother. Even better, L'Empreinte de l'ange turns out to have far more on its mind than jolting the audience, and avoids thriller clichés on its way to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Cameron Bailey

Safy Nebbou was born in Bayonne, France. After working for several years at the Théâtre des Chimères, he went on to write and direct numerous internationally acclaimed shorts before shooting his debut feature film, Le Cou de la girafe (04). L'Empreinte de l'ange (08) is his second feature.

Cadillac People's Choice Award