Catherine Deneuve in "In the Name of My Daughter."

Catherine Deneuve in "In the Name of My Daughter." Credit: Cohen Media Group

At age 72, the great post-Wave French director Andre Techine ("Wild Reeds," "Les Voleurs") continues to surprise with the depth of his characterizations, the fluidity of his visuals and the way he can wring a profound moral portrait out of even the most tabloid-oriented tale. Inspired by the real-life disappearance 37 years ago of casino heiress Agnes Le Roux -- and based on "Une Femme Face a la Mafia" by her mother, Renee Le Roux, and brother, Jean-Charles Le Roux -- the movie has everything one needs for a tidy combo of dignified soap opera and understated psycho-thriller. To this party, Techine brings emotional complexity.

Agnes (Adele Haenel) is back on the French Riveria after a failed marriage, and ready to remake her life, and maintain the lifelong adversarial relationship she's had with her mother (Catherine Deneuve). Renee is having trouble with the Palais, the casino she owned and operated with her late husband, and her business is under attack by a string of rival casinos owned by the reputedly mob-supported Frantoni (Jean Corso). Renee's advisor-without-portfolio, Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) hopes to be put in charge of the Palais, but when he's not, he seduces Agnes, maneuvers her into a deal with Frantoni to betray her mother and, with the bribe money Frantoni pays for Agnes' vote on the Palais board, opens a joint bank account.

Techine, who makes casually graceful use of locations and silence, provides the viewer with characters who can't be read easily. As portrayed by Haenel, Agnes looks like a young woman who cries herself to sleep at night, but she maintains a certain strength; one isn't sure at first if Maurice is the weasel his face suggests or if Renee is quite as emotionally tone-deaf toward her daughter as she seems. "In the Name of My Daughter" spends much of its time keeping the audience off-balance, until the last quarter or so, when Agnes' disappearance and Maurice's on-again, off-again murder trials commence. At that point, it really becomes a tabloid story, but till then, Techine gives us much to be thankful for.

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