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    A Queer French Mystery Series Worth Binging

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    Streaming this month on MHZ Choice is the binge-worthy French mystery, All This I Will Give to You. This knotty drama concerns Manuel Ortigosa (David Kammenos), a bestselling writer who makes some unsettling discoveries when his husband, Aymeric (Alexis Loret), dies in a car crash.

    First, Manuel learns that his husband was the heir to a Domaine (estate with vineyards) in Provence, and, upon his death, Manuel inherits everything. But he is a reluctant executor. Aymeric’s family, led by the formidable Marquise (Nicole Calfan), wants to contest the will. Moreover, Joffrey (Aurélien Wiik), the only surviving son in the family, was expecting to be put in charge. La Marquise does not hide her disdain, and Manuel is not invited to the funeral.

    Manuel attends anyway, making it clear that he is not only going to honor his late husband’s wishes, but also, with the help of newly retired gendarme Richard Saugier (Bruno Solo), investigate Aymeric’s death—because foul play is suspected.

    While an autopsy might provide answers about the abdominal wounds Aymeric suffered, La Marquise put a stop to that. Manuel also realizes that his husband was not wearing his wedding ring at the time of his death. Was he having an affair? Manuel quickly realizes that he will discover things he never knew about the man he loved.

    All This I Will Give to You introduces many suspects and storylines over the course of its six 45-minute episodes. La Marquise proves herself to be both homophobic (towards Manuel) and racist towards Elisa (Philypa Phoenix), her widowed Black daughter-in-law. (Elisa’s husband, Enguerrand, the youngest son in the family, committed suicide.)

    Joffrey’s spouse, Catherine (Louise Monot), is tasked with controlling her husband, who is a loose cannon. One ally Manuel has is Hermine (Annie Grégorio), who works in the house, but Manuel is quickly at odds with Guillaume (François-Dominique Blin), who works on the land. In addition, Manuel meets two folks who knew Aymeric as a child—they went to school together—Lucas (Lionel Erdogan), a local priest, and Alexia (Mélanie Maudran), who works on the estate.

    Manuel also has to navigate his (working) relationship with Richard, who is quite homophobic. Manuel checks him on occasion, demanding respect. Richard comes to appreciate Manuel’s efforts not just to help him with the case—because Richard is retired, he is jeopardizing his pension by investigating—but also with his family, whom the gendarme has alienated. 

    The characters all have secrets and tell lies, and the series gets juicier as Manuel and Richard uncover all kinds of bad behavior. (They also get shot at in one sequence.) Over the course of several episodes, there are drugs, blackmail, trysts with sex workers, and a long-buried scandal, among other crimes. How they are all connected to the characters provides much of the fun in the series.

    Most of the characters often seem to be untrustworthy. This may be because All This I Will Give to You deals with characters living double lives. Manuel, in particular, wonders about Aymeric’s behavior as he learns more about his late husband, whom he recalls fondly in a handful of memory sequences. However, viewers will need to suspend disbelief to appreciate that the couple’s relationship was unknown by Aymeric’s family, and that Manuel was unaware of his husband’s wealth.

    What keeps the series compelling are all the exchanges Manuel and Richard have as they dig deeper into Aymeric’s death. They find connections to Aymeric’s death and Enguerrand’s death, suggesting his suicide was actually murder. An episode from 30 years ago that was a pivotal moment for the family may also be significant. But there are also red herrings to divert attention and create suspicion. All This I Will Give to You does a good job of making every detail seem important until it is not—something Richard explains to Manuel about how he does his detective work. Whether Manuel is going to parlay his crime-solving experiences into a book is also raised.

    The performances are uniformly strong, and Kammenos makes an engaging lead. He displays an intensity and a curiosity as Manuel and holds his own in his various encounters. Watching him punch a homophobe outside a gay club or dress down Richard for one of his insensitive remarks is enjoyable as is his efforts to help Elisa and her son Arsène (Alexander Mari-Mcsween) escape from her late husband’s oppressive family. 

    Likewise, Bruno Solo is amusing as the jaded cop; he takes a stock character and gives him a personality that is both hardheaded and capable of change. A speech he has, late in the series, is quite revealing, and Solo plays it well.

    In support, Nicole Calfan is deliciously evil as La Marquise, and Aurélien Wiik engenders some real pity as Joffrey, who suffers numerous indignities over the course of the series. That he makes his troubled character sympathetic is to the actor’s credit.

    All This I Will Give to You may be a bit obvious in places—the parentage of one child is hardly a surprise, and some of the suspenseful moments are overplayed—but mostly, this series is addicting enough to want to watch in one sitting.

    © 2024 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” He teaches Short Attention Span Cinema at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and is the moderator for Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on May23, 2024