Lack of adequate conflict troubles this endearing film
Lack of adequate conflict troubles this endearing film

Vicky And Her Mystery Movie Review: Lack of adequate conflict troubles this endearing film

More conflict in this sweet film of an animal and child bonding is needed for it to be viable
Rating:(2.5 / 5)

Vicky And Her Mystery (Mystère, in the original French) is a feel-good film to top off the festive season. It has an endearing and unshakeable animal-child bond at its core that is sure to melt hearts, and yet, despite the positives, there just isn’t enough in it to sustain a 90-minute narrative. The film runs almost like a documentary, with personal stories unfolding unobtrusively in the background, as the lens and music give life to the exquisite beauty of the Cantal mountains of Central France. A father-daughter duo has just moved to the hilly region, and things are strained on the personal front. Stéphane Dutel (Vincent Elbaz) and his eight-year-old, Victoria (Shanna Keil), occupy a near-deserted cabin in an effort to put the pieces back after the passing of the latter’s mother. The young girl remains tight-lipped, barely uttering a word for the first fifteen minutes of the story. All her father’s efforts at engagement are met with a resigned silence. It is clear she is struggling to cope with her mother’s loss, being unable to communicate her feelings properly.

Stéphane tries to bring her out of her shell by proposing a trek. She doesn’t respond, but as soon as he’s about to set off on his own, she puts on her shoes and joins him. It is the first moment of life we see in the girl, as the father and daughter take in the great expanse of their surroundings. After a considerable amount of trekking, they realise they’re lost, and Stéphane seeks assistance from a solitary house; there is no form of habitation for miles. The man offers them water and helps them get back to their car. Victoria discovers a young puppy sleeping in a bucket of straw in the barn. The man tells her that his name is Mystère, and that he is a gift from the forest. He encourages her to keep the animal. Without her father’s knowledge, she smuggles the pup back home in her backpack.

Director – Denis Imbert

Cast – Vincent Elbaz, Shanna Keil, Marie Gillain, Eric Elmosnino, Tchéky Karyo 

Streaming On – Netflix 

Several aspects work in favour of the film, such as the cinematography, the music, the realistic way in which the bouncy pup is able to bring Victoria out of her shell (something her surgeon-father is unable to do), and the general portrayal of the animal-human bond. What the narrative suffers from is the absence of adequate conflict. We first have the group of armed and agitated farmers who view the large population of wolves in the region as a major threat, and then there’s the whole conservation angle at play too (no matter how well you’re able to rear a wild animal in a domesticated environment, such a creature doesn’t belong in one’s home), but they aren’t enough to sustain the story. It was expected that the animal would be released into the wild (much to the child’s protestations) only to escape whichever sanctuary it was relegated to for an obvious reunion. The shooting and its aftermath can be seen from a mile away as well. We keep seeing the farmers scouring acres of the region speaking of “lone wolf this” and “lone wolf that”; it is only a matter of time before a weapon goes off at the wrong place and time.

Vicky And Her Mystery works perfectly well if you’re content with watching the minute nuances of animal-human behaviour. Seeing Vicky make it out of her grief-filled depression thanks to an animal who communicates in a variety of ways apart from speech, is reassuring, no doubt. It will be an endearing and engaging film for anyone who either has animals or has spent a significant amount of time with them. The overwhelming message coming through (with Victoria understanding that she has to let Mystère go for him to fulfil his true potential as a wolf) is that a wild animal’s rightful place is not with humans, but with their own kind.

In spite of the 'aww' factor that Vicky And Her Mystery brings to the table, this film, inspired by true events, falls short because there aren’t enough elements to keep it going. It works better as a documentary, but as a work of fiction, it sure needs more to sustain itself. With the music, the stunning photography and the overall message, it makes it to an average score.

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