German-born, French-based director Dominik Moll hit the international jackpot with his second feature, Harry, He's Here To Help. A gleefully dark comedy-thriller that tipped its hat to Hitchcock, it riveted audiences with the twisty tale of how harassed family man Laurent Lucas gradually registers that generous ex-classmate Harry is in fact a Grade-A psychopath.
But that was five years ago, so expectations for Moll's follow-up have been running high, and at first, Lemming seems all set to fulfil them. Ensconced in their pristine model house, attractive young couple Alain and Bénédicte have the perfect life - so perfect, the cracks must surely start to show. As indeed they do, with the irruption into their idyllic existence of Alice, the wife of Alain's boss (Rampling, exuding hostility like a poisonous gas) and of the eponymous beastie, a small Scandinavian rodent mysteriously found bunging up a French sink.
Portents of disaster? You bet. For Alain, it's all downhill from here as his ordered life starts lurching out of control. First an experiment in his lab goes belly-up, then he's got a suicide's brains decorating the wall of his spare bedroom - while his adored wife seems to have become possessed by the deceased person's malignant spirit.
So far, so delightfully disastrous. But after this promising set-up, Moll's film - like one of Alain's ingenious inventions - starts to sputter and lose momentum. Excursions into Lynchian surrealism never quite mesh with the psychological black comedy of the opening and at 129 minutes Lemming has far too much time to sit down, gaze around and wonder where it's going next.
Still, Moll has a sharp eye for the brittle conventions of French bourgeois society and his cast do him proud - especially Lucas, who captures all the wild-eyed disbelief of a guy who sees the walls closing in on him. Rampling, as ever, is sheer cool class, even with the famous gaze blanked off behind dark glasses.
Ingeniously plotted dark comedy with spot-on performances - but the overlong running-time means it never grips as it should.
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