- Eddie Harrison
- 14 September 2021
A giant fly called Dominique is at the centre of a rather one-note story from Quentin Dupieux
Writer-director Quentin Dupieux is a French filmmaker with an eye for the absurd. Having made a film about a killer tyre (2010's Rubber) and a man in love with his jacket (2019's Deerskin), Mandibles doubles down on the madness as two criminals drive around south-eastern France with a giant fly in their car. This unusual premise is fresh enough to appeal to some, but such silliness works better in shorts than drawn-out features.
Jean-Gab (David Marsais) and Manu (Grégoire Ludig) are two sun-kissed slackers always looking for get-rich-quick schemes. Offered cash to transport an unopened suitcase to an unknown destination, the gormless lads accidentally discover a giant fly that they hope to tame and use as a drone to rob banks. While they train the fly, the boys shack up with some rich girls, including Agnès (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who is recovering from a brain injury caused by a skiing accident. Agnès can't help but constantly shout due to her condition, and finding a giant fly concealed in her house gives her good reason to do so.
Dupieux also has a career as a DJ (under the stage name Mr Oizo) and Mandibles feels like an in-joke between friends or something made on a whim: the mission, the fly and various plot-driving misunderstandings all come and go without explanation. Dupieux doesn't seem interested in his own narrative, and a shaggy-dog story results. The depiction of a brain injury in a comic context is also off-putting; Dupieux presumably thinks that Agnès' condition is inherently amusing, but viewers may disagree.
Mandibles remains watchable due to a couple of big pluses: the seaside atmosphere is nicely captured, and the insect itself (dubbed Dominique) is engaging, if somewhat sidelined by the meandering plot. But the one-note tone becomes tiresome, and while Dupieux deserves applause for his continued originality, Mandibles doesn't quite have what it takes to fly.
Available to watch in selected cinemas from Friday 17 September.