The Innocent is a fantastic French comedy caper

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Louis Garrel’s hilarious and unique French criminal comedy The Innocent is now in cinemas, and is sure to be one of the best comedies of the year. It made its Australian debut at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 and has now been released outside of the festival by Palace Films. It made its worldwide debut at a special gala screening for the 75th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in 2022.

The Innocent

Louis Garrel (A faithful man) directs and acts in The Innocent, playing Abel, the concerned son of mother Sylvie (played by Anouk Grinberg), who has just announced she’s marrying a man she met while giving theatre classes at the prison, Michel, (Roschdy Zem, who is also in Other People’s Children, which was at the AFFFF 2023 but is also getting its own release in late May, and who was in Oh Mercy! at AFFFF 2020) a prisoner. This being his Mum’s third partner in 10 years, he’s anxious about her choices and her welfare at the hands of a criminal who has just served a five year jail sentence.


Along with best friend, Clémence (Noémie Merlant, who you may recall from Paris, 13th District, AF FFF22 and One year, one night), Abel decides to follow Michel to see what’s he up to. This has hilarious consequences as they try unsuccessfully to stay undetected, and leads to a surprising business proposition for them both: assisting in the robbery of an unlikely item – a truckload of highly coveted caviar.

The Innocent/ L'innocent
Louis Garrel, Noémie Merlant – © Palace Films

The Innocent is art imitating life. Louis Garrel’s mother’s marriage to a prison inmate when he was 18 served as the inspiration for the film. As in the film, she had met him through theatre workshops she ran at the prison. Similarly, Jean-Claude Pautot fit right in to the part of Michel’s accomplice even though he is not actually a professional actor but “a former rogue” that Louis Garrel asked for advice when he was writing the film and then decided to cast in the role.


The Innocent is multidimensional. It isn’t just about the former prisoner and his business proposition. Abel has the unenviable position of trying to keep all the balls in the air, torn by his desire to protect his mother on the one hand, and seeing her happiness in her relationship with the very person he wants to protect her from on the other. Not getting on the bad side of his mum’s new husband, and trying to keep the peace with his friend, Clémence.

Anouk Grinberg, Louis Garrel, Roschdy Zem – ©EmmanuelleFirman

It was nominated for an impressive 11 nominations at the 2023 César awards, making The Innocent the most nominated film this year. It won in two categories: Best Original Screenplay was awarded to Louis Garrel, Tanguy Viel and Naïla Guiguet, and Noémie Merlant was awarded Best Supporting Actress for her part in The Innocent and we can see why. It was great seeing her in a comedic role after seeing her in serious roles in Paris, 13th district and One year, one night about being a survivor of the November 2015 Bataclan attack.


Roschdy Zem was nominated Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Innocent at the César 2023 but didn’t win on the night. Zem impressed us as the suave criminal pretending that he’s living a normal life and again it was nice to see him in a comedic role having seen him as the police officer in Oh mercy! Louis Garrel was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Director for The Innocent at the 2023 César awards


Gritty, grainy footage of Lyon takes us back to French films from the nouvelle vague period. From the cobblestoned laneways of Lyon to a large open field on the banks of the river, The Innocent allows us to see different parts of the city.  Some of the later scenes were filmed at the roadhouse diner Le Relais de la Sanne, about an hour’s drive outside of Lyon.


The Innocent is a very original crime comedy with a side of romance and plenty of unexpected twists and turns to keep you on your toes. This is a must-see French comedy.


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Palace Films at an advanced screening for media.


For more reviews of films that showed at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023, check out the below:

A good Doctor delivers a dose of hilarity in the unexpected

Country Cabaret: a fun farm film to see at AFFFF 2023

Everybody Loves Jeanne: a funny and touching exploration of our inner thoughts and overcoming grief

Final Cut: a comedic zombie film that’s even for people who don’t like horror or gore

Happy 50/Plancha is about a group vacation gone wrong

Jack Mimoun and the Secrets of Val Verde is a fun adventure

Lie with me is a beautiful, heart-breaking film which is a must-see this AFFFF 2023

In On the wandering paths, Jean Dujardin takes the path less travelled

Paris Memories traces the difficulties of being a survivor of the Paris terrorist attacks

Ride Above is an inspiring, but predictable, film about finding the courage to ride again

Silver Rockers: a film inspired by the story of rocker retirees from Normandy

Sugar and Stars: an inspiring tale about the road to sweet success

The Colours of Fire: an heiress seeks revenge

The Origin of Evil is a must-see film this AFFFF

The Tasting is a film with depth and elegance

Umami is a feature film that should have been a short



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