A rural seaside village near Calais is plagued by a series of grizzly murders. The two lead investigators appear helpless to act as each lead ends with more macabre discoveries, while local kid Quinquin finds himself intrinsically linked to the events that unfold as he kicks, punches and backchats his way through his summer.
Edited into four chapters this feature develops as a farcical police procedural with a coming-of-age component as Police Captain van der Weyden (Bernard Puvost) and Quinquin (Alane Delhaye) cross paths throughout the film. The humour is dry but occasionally allows a peculiarity to take over that offsets the violence, death, infidelity and racism. The contrast between these tones is initially jarring but as the 206-minute runtime unfolds the characters, the environment and the social dynamic becomes much clearer to navigate.
The charisma of Delhaye’s Quinquin hints at a depth that belies his roguish oik’ness. In spite of the fighting and fire-crackers he’s a young boy who likes to go exploring, builds sandcastles and shows a genuine tenderness to his trumpet playing girlfriend Eve (Lucy Caron). While Captain van der Weyden’s character suffers constant bodily and facial ticks it is more his directness and Columbo’esque dance with suspects that cut through his performance.
As a four part series P’tit Quinquin suffers in that there’s a stop-start element that loses momentum in the opening hour. Once the final chapter draws to a close you find yourself wanting to remain in the company of Quinquin and the remaining inhabitants of his community, the finale raising more questions than it answers.
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