A few years ago, butcher's daughter Mélanie (Julie Richalet) was a promising pianist with just one thing between her and a successful career as a musician: she had to pass an examination in front of some experts in their field. The day before her father had reassured her that if she failed to pass this time, she could always continue to practice and try again next year, yet Melanie was insistent that this was a make or break situation. Alas, on the big day she was halfway through the exam when one of the panel allowed an autograph hunter into the room, which ruined Mélanie's concentration. This was a fateful event...
The Page Turner was a film that aimed for a classy quality, so in effect all the bubbling cauldrons of emotions were kept beneath the surface: this was about posh people who never have arguments or lose their tempers so it made for some degree of tension when they were tested to the point of breaking. Writer and director Denis Dercourt had an ace up his sleeve in the leading actress who played Mélanie as an adult: Déborah François, who already was proving to be a force to be reckoned with as she rendered her character icy and mysterious, keeping the expression in her almond eyes blank and a cruel smile seemingly ready to play over her lips, but never quite appearing.
Mélanie is our villainess, and she is out for revenge against that examiner who messed up her chances all those years ago. Now she is an adult, and gets a job where she can come into contact with Mr Fouchécourt (Pascale Greggory), who happens to be married to Ariane (Catherine Frot), who is, you guessed it, the focus of Mélanie's wrath. She manages to be taken into her boss's confidence and accepted as a live-in childminder for them, looking after their son, and so begins her scheme to get her own back. Although, there are problems with this set-up that strike you: wouldn't the examiners allow the little girl another chance way back then? And was she really that petulant not to try again?
Indeed, Mélanie's vengeance seems way out of proportion to the insult against her, and to have nursed her wrath for this long doesn't speak too well of her. Still, you have to accept that someone would be that obsessed over something that could easily have been remedied without recourse to a campaign against Ariane which in effect is intended to ruin her life. Through machinations she does not latch onto, Ariane grows fond of her new employee, so much so that she hires her as page turner in the concerts she is trying to return to her previous form in - she was in a car crash a couple of years back that shattered her confidence (was Mélanie the cause of this hit and run? We never find out).
So you have to agree with the premise that an antagonist could be that petty for that length of time and blow up their hatred for someone they met all of once to unreasonably gargantuan propotions, yet if that sounds hard to swallow, Dercourt handles it all with a cool confidence that makes these questions of how credible his plot is something you contemplate after it ends. However, much of this is on the shoulders of Déborah François who keeps her cards close to her chest, all the better to hide the fact that The Page Turner features very few surprises. What it really needed was a big twist, but one never arrives, and it all plays out much as you might guess having grasped the premise. Somewhere in this film a sleazy little thriller struggling to get out, but it may be too restrained for its own good; cleverly, it is kept short enough to be snappy, but it's slightly unsatisfying with it. Music by Jérôme Lemonnier.