Adj: meaning impossible to stop or prevent.
That’s not quite an accurate depiction of what occurs in Fabrice Du Welz’s latest film. Sure, once events are put into motion, they’re difficult to stop, but the Belgian filmmaker, known for his share of provocative films, is treading lightly with Inexorable, an erotic thriller that’s sadly coming up short in both areas.
Marcel Bellmer (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a renowned author, best known for his bestselling novel Inexorable. As he prepares to write his next book, he and his wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey), who is also his publisher, move into her father’s palatial country home with their young daughter Lucie.
In addition to dealing with a severe case of writer’s block, Lucie is training a new dog Ulysse and the house is in dire need of repair, particularly on its three-story staircase. Thankfully there’s a young woman named Gloria (a beguiling Alba Gaïa Bellugi) who is new in town and ready to lend a hand.
For fans of erotic thrillers, the first act of the screenplay by Joséphine Darcy Hopkins, Aurélien Molas, and Du Welz will check all of the appropriate boxes. Gloria initially appears meek and quiet, unassuming even, but there’s clearly more to her than meets the eye. She’s particularly uncomfortable with being touched or praised, even after she discovers Ulysse at the edge of the property and returns him to a frantic Lucie.
Shortly thereafter the young woman begins to ingratiate herself to the family more and more: she becomes Lucie’s nanny, then orchestrates a scenario where she comes to live at the house, then the housekeeper Paola (Anaël Snoek) must be dealt with. It’s classic manipulation tactics and it’s all good fun. There’s a particular satisfaction in watching Gloria plant the seeds of discontent in Marcel and Jeanne’s marriage, often using Lucie’s affection for her as an opportunity to drive a wedge between the parents.
In this capacity, it’s fun, but familiar. There’s nothing particularly innovative about Gloria’s machinations, and the film mistakenly puts too much emphasis on her motivation as opposed to her actions. Erotic thrillers are often a straightforward affair: they liberally employ character archetypes and storytelling beats from film (neo) noir. Inexorable leans too heavily into the mystery of Gloria’s sad orphan origin story, often at the expense of her efforts to displace Jeanne as the woman in Marcel’s life. The film is at its best when it is exploring how easily the famed writer can be seduced or how fragile his 25-year-old marriage is.
Du Welz is equally adept at capturing the extravagant wealth and privilege of the enormous house as he is at creating a sense of intrigue and suspense in the locked doors and darkened stairwells. But the narrative fails to match the visual intrigue and even the oft-repeated motif of a birds-eye view of the three flights of stairs, which seems like straightforward foreshadowing, disappointingly doesn’t truly pay off.
And therein lies the issue: there’s simply not quite enough here to satisfy.
First of all, the film doesn’t feature enough sex. There are two scenes that exist as a mirror image to one another and as a combination, they’re very compelling. They come too late, however, and the sex is far too fleeting. This is especially frustrating because Inexorable truly comes alive in these moments, which only makes you yearn for more.
Secondly, the stakes – and the body count – are too low. Blame the mystery of Gloria’s past because it dominates the film’s bandwidth, often at the expense of her Machiavellian plans. Further complicating the matter is the film’s isolated setting and small cast, which practically guarantee that there’s nary an iconic greenhouse or bunny scene to be found (Dog lovers need not fret for poor Ulysse, however; while he and his bite are a large part of Gloria’s plan, for all intents and purposes the dog does not die).
Inexorable remains highly watchable and the blood-soaked conclusion, while hasty, is pretty satisfying. It’s hard not to wish that Du Welz, Hopkins and Molas had leaned more into the sultry, tawdry elements of the subgenre, though, particularly given the film’s early potential. It’s frustrating because the actors are all game, the setting is appropriately opulent and the scenario is ready-made for scandal and sex.
Inexorable isn’t flaccid, but it’s not fully erect, either. And there’s nothing quite as frustrating as an erotic thriller that only achieves half-mast.