REVIEW : Oh Mercy!/ Roubaix, Une Lumiere!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Oh Mercy! which is part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020 is a true-crime film from director Arnaud Desplechin which shows the petty and more serious crimes investigated by the police of Roubaix, a town near the Belgian border.

Roubaix, une lumière (2019)

We are reminded at the beginning of the film that this Oh Mercy! is based on a true story. Indeed, Arnaud Desplechin was inspired to make this film after Mosco Boucault’s 2008 television documentary on the true story “Roubaix, commissariat central, affaires courantes”.


From early in the film, the usual night in the job of a police officer and captain of the station, Yakoub Daoud (Roschdy Zem, AF FFF18, The Price of Success and The Brigade) is revealed – a car on fire, a house call after a report that someone has a knife, robberies… A white man arrives at the police station telling the dark-skinned police officer that he was burned and someone took his car. When pressed he provides only a vague description, one which shows his racist nature, that his assailant was an Arab man with a turban and a cygnet ring. The police deduct pretty quickly that this man has burned his own car, and himself accidentally in the process.

Then there’s Marie and Claude, the young women that the police talk to when police go to investigate a fire in a building hers. This is not the last time that we will see these women as they becomes central to the investigation that follows the discovery of a deceased elderly lady in the apartment upstairs.


Much of the film focuses on the two young girls, Marie and Claude and the police interrogations of them in relation to this murder. Large focus is placed on the way in which the police question and separate to try to get one to tell them what happened and how they were implicated.


The acting could not be faulted. Sara Forestier (AF FFF18, M; AF FFF17, Elementary) convincingly portrays Marie, who is almost child-like and naïve who appears to be dependent on Claude. French-turned international actress Léa Seydoux (AF FFF17: Farewell, My Queen; AF FFF15: Saint Laurent), had me feeling like her character Claude couldn’t be trusted from the beginning of the film. Yakoub Daoud gave an authentic performance as the police captain.


Oh Mercy!
Léa Seydoux

Sadly, Oh Mercy! is a film with a lot of promise but it sadly failed to see it through. A film which was sombre and dark in appearance but slow and lacking in real thrills or drama to put it solidly into those categories.


For a thriller though, this was anything but. The film was slow and dark and sombre. It had a few twists and turns but it was not an edge-of-your-seat, nail biting film. There was a complete lack of suspense. Perhaps this could more accurately be described as a film looking at social aspects of society rather than being a true-crime film in the usual sense.


Side note, have you ever wondered why some film titles have completely different titles when they are translated? Roubaix, une lumière is one of those that makes me scratch my head when it is marketed to the English speaking world as “Oh Mercy!” Roubaix is a city in northern France, located close to the Belgian border and “une lumière” means “a light”. Odd.


Oh Mercy! was in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The film was in competition with some other AFFFF 2020 titles including Sibyl and Les Misérables. South Korean film “Parasite” ultimately took home the Palme d’Or.



Matilda Marseillaise viewed Oh Mercy! via a digital review screener of the film


Oh Mercy! is showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020, which will screen in Adelaide, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Canberra, Perth and Sydney from 14 July to 4 August. Sadly due to Melbourne re-entering the strictest COVID-19 restrictions again, the festival will not be shown there at this stage.

You can find session times and purchase tickets via the AFFFF page:


You can read our interview with Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020 here.



Enter your email to subscribe to new article notifications about all things French and francophone in Australia

Related Posts

Matilda Marseillaise

Discover more from Matilda Marseillaise

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading