French filmmaker Olivier Meyrou turns his camera on a family striving to come to terms with the vicious murder of their gay son in Beyond Hatred. It's an intimate portrait while at the same time Meyrou stays eerily removed from his subjects. His approach, which is daring in many ways, certainly thickens the mood, yet his abstract depiction of the victim, François Chenu, ultimately softens the emotional impact. In a twisted irony, Chenu becomes defined by his sexuality.
Perhaps the most powerful scene is one of near total darkness - night in the park where Chenu lost his life. Meyrou teams this footage with a gut-wrenching narration by his sister who recalls the events leading up to his fatal encounter with three neo-Nazi skinheads. Her sentences are punctuated by deep intakes of breath and long pauses so that, at times, there seems to be no sound or image. These moments, simply but boldly constructed, are loaded with tension.
Meyrou keeps the interviews to a minimum. He prefers mostly to eavesdrop on conversations everywhere from the courthouse to a coffee shop to mum's kitchen. The settings are mundane, but the exchanges are emotionally raw and so neatly convey both the drama and the grinding daily routine of having to cope with tragedy. Chenu's relatives offer minute details about their reaction to the murder and the men who committed it, but it's a great shame that Chenu remains a mystery. Meyrou denies us even a photo in his brutal resolve to focus on the aftermath rather than the incident. It leaves a sense of something missing.
Beyond Hatred (Au-Delà De La Haine) is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30th March 2007.