Vincent Must Die, is the satirical French genre bender of a feature debut by Stéphan Castang which just screened at Fantasia and it’s a unique and morosely hilarious metaphor for the COVID epidemic. The film follows Vincent (Karim Leklou) a hapless graphic designer, who one day out of the blue is attacked by an intern at his job. A few days later it’s a colleague stabbing him with a pencil. The random attacks continue to escalate, until he retreats to his father’s villa in the country. At a gas station on his way he meets a man who he believes is homeless, but is stricken with the same plight. Here the film forks as one thread follows Vincent’s condition and how it’s not some isolated occurrence, and the other narrative follows Vincent’s romance with a local rural waitress at an American themed eatery, Margaux (Vimala Pons) – who didn’t immediately try to kill him, which is the beginning of most successful relationships.
Vincent Must Die uses the bizarre attacks that plague our protagonist to deconstruct and put a spotlight on the human condition and how it devolved during the pandemic. It’s something that is just beginning to bubble up as Vincent moves out of the city, where he struggles – like a lot of us did during the pandemic to figure out just what is going on. This thematic thread thoughtfully explores Vincent’s loneliness and that’s been caused due to his inability to leave his home or even make eye contact with another human out of fear of being attacked. The film then changes gears a bit in the third act, once Vincent’s condition begins to subside as it then spreads causing widespread chaos. As the worst case scenario envelopes the world around them, Vincent and Margaux then simply try to find the best in one another.
While the script lays out the general framework, it’s the performances here that really makes this narrative as engaging as it is allowing you to really connect to these characters. Karim Leklou does a rather impressive job at sort of juggling the more nuanced real life reaction a person would have if this really transpired, while still giving it that comedic flair you need to offset the rather graphic violence. It’s a performance filled with vulnerability, sadness, rage and ultimately love, that was impressive and couldn’t have been easy. His chemistry with Vimala Pons is palpable and the bittersweet nature of their relationship thankfully imbues this film with a heart, that is oddly more relatable than most.
Vincent Must Die is a sublime foray into several genres, that meticulously balances its more broad comedic strokes with its brooding and bittersweet love story at its core. The film thankfully strays away from the absurd, to tell a very human story of the lengths some will go to maintain a connection, even as the world burns around them. While the premise is enough to get you in the door, the romance locks you in thanks to the leads, who really tap into the sincerity of the characters given their situation. Hopefully a sign of things to come from director Stéphan Castang, Vincent Must Die is a superb debut that manages to take this still relevant metaphor and situation and infuse it with a very human story of connection, rather than getting lost in the whole post-apocalyptic of it all.